78 posts categorized " Behind the Scenes "

September 3, 2014

Executive Cellar Master Features Joseph Phelps Premium Wines

JoesephPhelps-Insignia-2010-smWith a prominent reputation among food and wine connoisseurs, Oceania Cruises continually curates a selection of some of the finest wines from top wineries around the world, including those from Joseph Phelps Winery. Founded in 1973, the family-owned Napa Valley estate winery has vineyards throughout Napa Valley, as well as along the foggy Sonoma Coast. Joseph Phelps has a history in making distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery also serves as the country’s Syrah pioneer – being the first to bottle the varietal commercially post-Prohibition.

Our sommeliers are pleased to offer you Joseph Phelps wines on board, including Insignia, the flagship wine blend that put the now famous vineyard on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers. The proprietary Napa Valley blend of red Bordeaux varietals was first produced in 1974. Year after year, Insignia continues to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest wines. Of 37 vintages, 31 have been rated 90 or more points by various wine publications, including three perfect 100-point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages from The Wine Advocate founder Robert Parker’s Historical Tasting of Insignia report (published in November 2013).

We invite you to explore Joseph Phelps wines more in-depth with our exclusive Joseph Phelps Food & Wine Trails package aboard Marina’s Discover Down Under voyage, departing February 12, 2015 from Sydney, Australia. This special cruise features tastings with the director of Joseph Phelps Winery, winemakers dinners and several wine-focused shore excursions, all while calling on a number of fascinating Australian and New Zealand destinations. Please call 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642) for further details.

Joseph Phelps wines currently featured on board include:

Joseph Phelps Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California 2010
Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley, California 2006 (proprietary blend)

The next time you are on board, ask your sommelier to pour you one of our Joseph Phelps wines, and share in a toast to your unforgettable vacation with Oceania Cruises.

August 22, 2014

Q&A with Oceania Cruises’ Bridge Director Barbara Seagram

We recently had the chance to catch up with Barbara Seagram, one of Oceania Cruises’ much-loved Bridge Directors, and learn more about her and bridge aboard the ships.  An Oceania Cruises Bridge Director for the past six years, Barbara is an award-winning player and author of a number of celebrated bridge books, including the award-winning 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know. She enjoys traveling the world and teaching bridge with her husband, Alex Kornel, appreciating the opportunity to spend time with people from so many diverse countries.

Below, Barbara shares some insight into the game, and what she loves most about bridge on Oceania Cruises.

How did you first get involved in bridge?

My first mother-in-law sent me for lessons in 1975 with my current husband, her son. He did not like the smoke – in those days – while I took to the game with a vengeance. I loved every minute of it. Eventually I re-married (a bridge player of course) and we live happily ever after!

What do you appreciate about bridge aboard Oceania?

I love the passengers that travel on Oceania Cruises. They are very down to earth, and they appreciate the bridge programs provided and soak up all of it – it’s really very popular. On two of our recent sailings, we had 130 intermediate students on every sea day (19 days in total) and 45-50 beginners as well, who attended early in the morning. In the afternoons, we had 30 tables each day playing bridge, duplicate and party bridge. Imagine: 15% of passengers on the ship were playing bridge! It’s wonderful.

Can you share a Barbara Seagram tip with us?

When you make a lead in bridge, you want to try to paint a picture of what else you hold in that suit. You have to give a message to your partner. If you have K642, you lead the 2. We call this leading the Bottom of Something, i.e. your partner now knows you have an honor card. If you have “nothing” cards, i.e., 952, you lead the 9. We call this leading Top of Nothing. To help you remember this important tip, think of that wonderful city in Massachusetts – BOSTON – and that is what it stands for: The Bottom of Something and the Top of Nothing. And that of course is how the city got its name!

What advice do you have for newcomers to bridge?

If you take French lessons and never use the language, you'll never learn to speak French. Playing makes it all sink in. Bridge is a game of mistakes and every time you make one, you remember not to make the same one next time. Bridge is like golf for the brain and it has been shown to stave off Alzheimer’s. It can be humbling, but it is exhilarating and so much fun. Play at least twice a week and your skills will improve rapidly. Oceania Cruises offers both beginner's bridge lessons as well as intermediate, always providing top-level bridge instructors and directors.

Barbara takes pleasure in being able to continually share her expertise and enthusiasm for the game, and invites you to get involved during one of our upcoming Bridge Sailings, featuring an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor.

 

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Barbara Seagram with her husband, Alex Kornel, also a bridge instructor

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 An afternoon of bridge aboard Marina during her Grand Voyage, Mythical Travels, from Lima to London

May 8, 2014

INSIGNIA RETURNS TO THE FLEET WITH A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER

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An exciting and emotional day for the entire Oceania Cruises family, today we welcome our beloved Insignia back to the fleet. We are especially excited because her return from a two-year charter marks Oceania Cruises’ first season with a five-ship fleet. But that isn’t the only reason Insignia is generating such excitement. She arrived in Barcelona today with even more style, grace and elegance than ever before, fresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover.

With $50 million in renovations distributed among the three sister ships, Insignia is the first to undergo the most massive refurbishment in Oceania Cruises history. Four weeks from now, Regatta and Nautica will also have completed their bow-to-stern transformation.

Upon Insignia’s arrival in Barcelona this morning, we received a few photos that capture the stunning renovations, and we are thrilled to be sharing them here. You can see Insignia still possesses the same elegance and charm but now glows with a new polish and shine, courtesy of luxurious new fabrics and furnishings, as well as many new amenities.

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Penthouse Suite

All of the suites and staterooms have been appointed with stylish new furnishings, and a new color palette in soothing shades of the sea, sun and sky completely transforms the Penthouse Suites. The Owner’s and Vista Suites are outfitted with lavish new oversized showers that are as big as an entire bathroom at home!

Public spaces also embody the new look. The expansive windows of Horizons lounge continue to offer spectacular sunsets, while the interior now features shades of sea blues, cocoa brown and mint, freshly complementing the view. And be sure to check out the new digs of Martinis and enjoy – what else? – a signature Big O Martini. For those who thought the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® on board couldn’t possibly be any more serene, don't miss the beautiful new mosaics that enhance the sense of tranquility even further.

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Horizons

Rich new decor isn’t the only renovation on Insignia. Innovative features unveiled with the launch of our newest ships, Marina and Riviera, generated unprecedented excitement, so Oceania Cruises has taken this opportunity to add several of these features to Insignia, with Nautica and Regatta soon to follow. You can now enjoy an illy® cappuccino in Baristas on any ship in the fleet, and with the new specialty grill in Terrace Café, you can savor succulent surf and turf or grilled-to-order chops any night of the week. You can also take in fantastic views from the upper decks as you play nine holes of miniature golf, a feature found on no other ships in this class.

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Baristas

Perhaps most exciting of all, the return of Insignia means that you can explore more of your world than ever before. Oceania Cruises wholeheartedly embraced this opportunity by debuting two never-before-offered 180-day World Voyages, which Insignia will sail beginning in January 2015 and again in July 2015. These amazing journeys are sure to inspire your inner artist, which is why the Artist Loft, another popular feature on Marina and Riviera, has been added to Insignia exclusively for these special voyages. Express your creativity with the world as your muse and artists-in-residence as your guide.

For those of you who set sail from Barcelona this afternoon on board the newly renovated Insignia, we’d love to hear your impressions in the comments here on the blog. Welcome home, Insignia, and bon voyage!

October 31, 2013

PUMPKIN CARVING ON BOARD RIVIERA

Carving competition1 The holidays are always a festive time on board the ships of Oceania Cruises – and Halloween is no exception! The chefs embraced the spooky spirit of the season in a pumpkin-carving contest onboard Riviera. Everyone put their knife skills to the test to concoct the creepiest, craziest, most creative jack o’lantern in the galley. Podium

We’ve always known our chefs were gifted, but they really showed off their artistic talents in carving these fearsome faces. The grand prize went to Assistant Cook Emmanuel Paygane. Cook I Komang Pamatha took second place, and Assistant Chef de Partie Vishant Raut took third.

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Congratulations to each of them!

Of course, amidst the Halloween fun, our chefs continue to create the exquisite cuisine that our guests enjoy on board each day. In fact, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger was putting the finishing touches on a new salmon en croute to be served at lunch. Is your mouth watering yet?

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Happy Halloween from your Oceania Cruises family!

February 25, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES LAUNCHES FIRST-EVER TV ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

Today Oceania Cruises reaches another milestone in the company’s history. We are launching our first ever television advertising campaign. Airing on national networks in cities on the East and West coasts, the new 30-second spot begins running today and showcases the brand’s pillars of destinations, cuisine, onboard experience and value. 

The first scene opens on an Oceania Cruises ship at sea and highlights the experiences guests can “wake up” to every day, like visiting the Taj Mahal in India or the Meteora monasteries in Greece, whale watching in Alaska or a gondola ride in Venice. The ad transitions to the onboard experience and Oceania Cruises’ extraordinary cuisine, focusing on the freedom guests have to decide when, where and with whom they will dine.

 

The ad campaign is timed to coincide with the launch the 2014 Summer Collection, the largest offering in Oceania Cruises’ history. Unveiled on February 13th, the collection encompasses 90 voyages, an almost entirely new line-up of European itineraries and the highly anticipated return of Insignia. The five ships in the fleet – Marina, RivieraRegatta, Insignia and Nautica – will sail to more than 330 destinations throughout the world.

The Oceania Cruises family is always growing, and with this television campaign, we hope more people than ever will hear about the fascinating destinations, luxurious ships, exquisite cuisine and extraordinary value of the Oceania Cruises experience.

February 6, 2013

THE SECRETS BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

For the past eight months, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and the rest of the Oceania Cruises culinary team have been designing and testing new menus for the fleet’s flagship restaurant, the Grand Dining Room. The menus in the Grand Dining Room change daily, and in total, Garanger has created 85 new recipes for 14 different menus.

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One of Garanger’s latest creations: Zucchini-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Parmesan Cheese and Angel Hair Pasta al Limone

“If you just copied other recipes or used a cookbook, you could do this rollout in two months,” Garanger says. “But we try to be unique in every single recipe we create, and that is a lengthy process requiring the dedicated efforts of the entire team.”

Photo 21So what is Garanger’s creative process for conceiving all of these unique recipes? “I start to think about the recipe and then I start to make notes. Then I prepare it once. If I’m lucky, I only have to prepare the dish three or four times before it’s finalized. But often I have to try it eight or ten times before it’s perfect. And sometimes I give up!” Garanger chuckles. “Sometimes I say, okay, this one is never going to work – and then maybe it works a few years later. It happens sometimes.”

Garanger’s conception of the recipes is only the first step in a launch of this scale. Once the recipes are designed, a great deal of product research must be done to secure all of the new ingredients. This is one of the challenges facing restaurants operating onboard a ship versus restaurants ashore.

“Fresh products are purchased in every port, and the availability changes depending on whether you’re in South America or Europe or Asia, so the executive chefs have to plan ahead and make adjustments,” Garanger explains. “Meanwhile, dry goods and frozen items are delivered via shipping containers, which can take a long time to reach the ship. If a container is traveling from Miami to Europe, it may take three weeks. To ensure we have all the necessary ingredients for these new recipes, we had to begin scheduling these shipments months in advance.”

Onboard restaurants are open seven days a week, 365 days a year, another aspect of shipboard operations requiring ingenuity in management. Galleys operate around the clock, and shifts must be staffed accordingly. Training and oversight must be constant and diligent.

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As an example of the team’s commitment to the ingredients, design and process of recipes from start to finish, consider the dinner baguette in the Grand Dining Room. Only the finest (and most expensive) French flour is used – Viron flour harvested in the Beauce region – because it has a lower gluten content and thus more flavor. The flour is shipped direct from France, and each batch of dough goes through a two-stage proofing process to release the full aromas of the flour. The dough is refrigerated to proof overnight and then worked, formed into baguettes and proofed again before baking. And this is just to create the dinner baguette, one of thousands of items prepared onboard each day.

Here Garanger and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti discuss the finer points of the baguette wafer that will accompany the new Grand Dining Room dish: Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Artichoke Salpicon, Tomato Coulis and Poblano Chili Aioli.

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Considering the complex methods required to make an exceptional baguette, you can imagine how involved the process is when launching entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. The rollout will take nearly four months to complete across the entire fleet, with each ship requiring a full cruise for initial implementation and another full cruise for follow-up training.

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The new dishes are a feast for the senses. The flavor profiles are rich and diverse, and the presentation is spectacular.

Photo A - Beef Carpaccio with Fried Shallots, Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette
Beef Carpaccio with Fried Shallots, Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

 
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Baby Shrimp and Avocado Cocktail with Marie-Louise Sauce
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Warm Duck Pâté in Puff Pastry with Port Wine Sauce

 

The new menus also include an assortment of Canyon Ranch® Healthy Living Choices that meet the Canyon Ranch standards for balanced nutrition from a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean proteins. The calories, fat grams and fiber grams for each Canyon Ranch selection are included on the menu. If healthy living means eating dishes like this, then I’m becoming a health nut!

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Canyon Ranch Vegetable Caponata on Roasted Red Pepper Dressing with Crispy Sardinian Bread
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Canyon Ranch Wild Salmon Tartare with Sushi Rice and Avocado

 

Having created so many exquisite dishes, does Garanger have a personal favorite?

“My signature dish is my mashed potatoes,” Garanger says. With the new rollout, Franck’s Mashed Potatoes will always be available as a side in the Grand Dining Room, and you really must try them. Absolute heaven!

“The pâté en croute on the new menu is also very close to my heart,” Garanger continues. “This is a recipe from my childhood for the classic dish that the French enjoy around the family table.” Here Franck prepares his Childhood Paté en Croute: French Family-Style Encrusted Paté with Smoked Ham and Pheasant.

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Until you’ve visited the Grand Dining Room, you can only imagine the amazing selection of delectable new dishes to be tasted. And the Grand Dining Room is only one of four gourmet restaurants on Regatta and Nautica and six restaurants on Marina and Riviera! When you reserve your next voyage with Oceania Cruises, I suggest you make it a lengthy one, so you have plenty of time to sample all of the spectacular cuisine!

February 5, 2013

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OCEANIA CRUISES’ FLEET CORPORATE CHEF FRANCK GARANGER

Photo 11Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that esteemed master chef Jacques Pépin is our executive culinary director and the inspiration behind our extraordinary cuisine. But even Chef Pépin knows that it takes more than one person to create a culinary program for a cruise line that can successfully rival the cuisine of even the best restaurants ashore. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of the other culinary team members responsible for creating the finest cuisine at sea.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger might modestly resist the label of “creative genius.” But after tasting the exquisite dishes he has conceived for Oceania Cruises’ ships, I can’t think of a more appropriate moniker.

While many cruise lines employ a single corporate chef, Oceania Cruises has an entire team of culinary directors and executive chefs committed to realizing its culinary vision. Thus Garanger is free to focus his creative genius – there, I said it – on designing recipes that uphold Oceania Cruises’ reputation for the finest cuisine at sea. 

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An example of the finest cuisine at sea: Tamarind-Braised Black Cod with Sweet Ginger Sauce and Vegetable Ragout

While Garanger was born in the Normandy region of France, his family moved to Angers in the Loire Valley when he was two years old. His father owned a bakery, and after being exposed to the culinary world at a very young age, Garanger began working with his father and learning the pastry trade at age 16. One year later he began studies in hospitality and hotel management. French universities are very specialized, and the training involved one week of classes alternating with two weeks of hands-on restaurant experience, at which time Garanger worked with a French master chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Angers.

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Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
After passing his first exams, Garanger worked at one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, followed by the equally renowned Hotel de Cap Eden Roc, a palace on the French Riviera in Antibes. He then returned to school for two years to complete his degrees and after exams, at the age of 24, began officially working as a chef.

His first position on a cruise ship was with Silversea Cruises in 1995. When he was asked to join Oceania Cruises in 2003, he did not hesitate to accept. “I liked the vision they had for the line,” Garanger says. “And I really liked the passion of all the people involved. They were so into food that, in everything we were creating, they were not only behind me but also tasting the food with me. When you have the CEO and the president coming onboard just to taste the food to see if we can put it on the menu, it applies a little pressure, but it is also very rewarding because you can really see how important the food is to the company.”

Much like the passionate commitment of the executives, many aspects of Garanger’s tenure with Oceania Cruises have been both challenging and rewarding. “Regatta was a challenge because we had to start from scratch, and we were working with a ship we didn't build, so we had to make adjustments. We built Marina ourselves, but it was also challenging because we opened eight different restaurants – each a completely different concept – and had 160 cooks onboard to manage. In both cases, there were very high expectations, and we had to deliver in a short period of time. Both debuts were a huge success, and so of course, we’re very happy.”

So what is the secret to continuing to deliver the finest cuisine at sea? For one thing, most members of the culinary team, such as Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Culinary Director Eric Barale and Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur, have been with Oceania Cruises since its very beginnings. And the line’s commitment to cuisine has ensured that the team is provided every tool they need to succeed.

“I’ve always been asked what I needed, and whatever I asked for, I got,” Garanger says. “Of course, then you have to make sure you deliver, and so far, I’ve succeeded. That’s why I’m still here!”

Each restaurant onboard provides its own unique challenges. Jacques is perhaps the most challenging because of the technical precision required to execute true, authentic French recipes using traditional, time-honored methods on a daily basis. Toscana is also technically challenging because of the à la minute preparation of all the fresh pasta and risotto.

Red Ginger is one of Garanger’s favorite concepts because it is truly “his baby.” Garanger traveled in Asia for two years and then spent time in both London and San Francisco researching ideas before developing the restaurant concept and recipes.

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One of Red Ginger’s signature dishes: Miso-Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf

While Jacques and Red Ginger are featured on Oceania Cruises’ newest ships, Marina and Riviera, guests will be excited to know that they can soon get a taste of these restaurants onboard Regatta and Nautica as well. These ships will soon feature an entrée from both Jacques and Red Ginger each night in the Grand Dining Room. The new features are just one small part of Garanger’s latest large scale project, the rollout of new menus for the Grand Dining Rooms on the entire fleet.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Garanger’s insights into the creative process, training and implementation involved in this extensive menu rollout. Check the blog again soon for more behind-the-scenes stories.

February 1, 2013

MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

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Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin
While most cruise lines employ a single corporate chef that oversees the creation, organization and implementation of menus, Oceania Cruises has an entire team at the helm of its culinary program. Of course, renowned master chef Jacques Pépin has been the inspiration for the program since he became executive culinary director when the line was founded 10 years ago. But consistently delivering the finest cuisine at sea requires a large group of dedicated chefs committed to this vision.

“No one person can be in charge of all the food and beverage for a cruise line and do it well,” says Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro. “It’s  creativity, it’s administration, it’s logistics and human resources; it’s sourcing and tracking and training and quality control. And then there’s bread and pastry. From a culinary point of view, that’s like another planet! How could one person do all that?”

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of meeting several members of the culinary team, including Semeraro, who led the team in one of its most ambitious projects to date: the launch of entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. Semeraro has been a key player in the creation of Oceania Cruises’ renowned cuisine since the line’s founding in 2003. In fact, most of the culinary team has been onboard since the company began with a handful of employees a decade ago, which accounts for the family atmosphere amongst the entire team and translates to a warm camaraderie amidst the crew and guests onboard the ships. It truly is a family affair, as several of the original recipes served in the Italian restaurants have come from Semeraro and his wife, Packy, and their mothers.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has certainly found his niche within the team. His sole responsibility is creating innovative new menus that keep Oceania Cruises at the forefront of culinary excellence. Meanwhile, Culinary Director Eric Barale handles the logistics of implementing Garanger’s creations, from purchasing fresh ingredients and acquiring new equipment to assembling the necessary staff and designing menus. Interestingly, Barale used to be Garanger’s teacher at culinary school, and when Garanger was invited to come onboard with Oceania Cruises when the line was founded in 2003, Barale was the first person he called to join him.

“Eric does all the work I don’t like to do,” Garanger says, chuckling. “I am the right brain and he is the left, so it makes a great partnership. When you don’t have to take care of all the logistics and you’re free to just create the recipes, it’s fantastic. It allows me to keep a clear head and to simply create. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day.”

Of course, the right brain and left brain wouldn’t function without a lot of neurons flashing in synchronicity. Several other team members help execute this culinary vision, not to mention the hundreds of chefs and sous chefs working onboard the ships. Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti were both heavily involved in the new menu rollout in the Grand Dining Room. Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin oversaw implementation on Riviera, while Senior Executive Chef Laurent Trias will oversee Marina, and Executive Chef Renald Macouin will oversee Regatta and Nautica

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Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
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Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti

 

If you saw yesterday’s blog, your mouth is probably still watering over the photos I shared that revealed the fruits of the team’s labors. There are so many delicious dishes on the new Grand Dining Room menus that I wanted to share a few more with you today. 

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Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Creamy Pesto and Crispy Focaccia Bread
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Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish Fillet with Saffron Mussel Sauce

 
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Herb-Crusted Cornish Hen alla Diavolo with Bacon and Shoestring Potatoes
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Dorado and Tuna Ceviche with Cilantro and Heirloom Tomatoes

In my next blog post, read my behind-the-scenes interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and learn where he gets his inspiration to create the finest cuisine at sea.

January 31, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES DEBUTS EXCITING NEW MENUS IN THE GRAND DINING ROOM

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Fresh Sea Bass on Ratatouille Sauce with Chickpea Croutons and Tomato Petals

Oceania Cruises has long held a reputation for cuisine that is not only the finest at sea but also rivals that of the best restaurants ashore. If you’ve dined onboard an Oceania Cruises ship, then you know we take fine dining to an entirely new level. Creating truly exquisite cuisine requires more than just the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. It requires passion, creativity, à la minute preparation and careful attention to detail. 

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Pancetta-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Kalamata Olive Sauce and Vegetable Julienne
Oceania Cruises has further solidified its reputation as the cruise line for foodies by successfully rolling out entirely new menus, including 85 new recipes, for its Grand Dining Room onboard Riviera. The remainder of the fleet will receive the new menus over the course of the next three months.

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, my job has a lot of perks, but in this case I have to say, it involved a bit of torment. For the last few weeks, I’ve been receiving mouthwatering photos of all the fabulous dishes that the chefs have been creating, testing and, most importantly, tasting. I can’t wait to sail again to try all of the new dishes. Your taste buds are about to sit up and take notice.

The new menus for the Grand Dining Room are an ode to classic European-inspired cuisine, while also giving a whole new meaning to dishes such as steak au poivre and moules marinières. The team has taken the execution of classic dishes to a higher level, and the vision of Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has revealed interpretations such as Palermo-Style Grilled Swordfish over Crushed Red Bliss Potatoes with Eggplant Caviar, Traditional French Beef Tartare with Toasted Baguette Wafer, and Grilled Veal Chop with Rustic Tomatoes and Lemon Confit. 

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Moules Marinières: Fresh Black Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley

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Palermo-Style Grilled Swordfish over Crushed Red Bliss Potatoes with Eggplant Caviar

 

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Traditional French Beef Tartare with Toasted Baguette Wafer
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Grilled Veal Chop with Rustic Tomatoes and Lemon Confit

Menus also include three exquisite new lobster dishes, such as the Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crepe with Langoustine Bisque. If, like me, your craving for Italian food is never satiated, you will love the 10 new pastas and risottos that are featured. How about Fettuccine with Wild Sea Bass in Rustic Tomato and Peperoncino Sauce? Or perhaps Rigatoni alle Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata, a delicious dish of rigatoni pasta served with sautéed eggplant in a tomato basil sauce and topped with smoked ricotta?

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Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crepe with Langoustine Bisque
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Rigatoni alle Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata

 

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Fettuccine with Wild Sea Bass in Rustic Tomato and Peperoncino Sauce

If you prefer a light garlic and wine sauce, you must try the Pasta with Fresh Littleneck Clams and Pinot Grigio Sauce. Risotto lovers shouldn’t miss the Risotto Venere con Gamberoni All’Arrabbiata, a black risotto with a spicy shrimp ragout.

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Pasta with Fresh Littleneck Clams and Pinot Grigio Sauce
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Risotto Venere con Gamberoni All’Arrabbiata

 

Beyond the traditional dishes from countries such as France, Spain and Italy, you will also find European-inspired versions of other classics, such as the American barbecued pork chop and the Japanese crab tempura.

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Sweet Barbecued Pork Chop with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Stuffed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
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Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Roasted Cherry Tomato Aioli

Jacques Pépin has always said that the finest cuisine must start with the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, and Oceania Cruises’ unwavering commitment to this philosophy is evident in all of the new dishes. A new lobster and rice dish is made with saffron from the Castilla–La Mancha region of Spain, known for producing the finest of this priciest of all herbs. Fans of “the other white meat” will find some of the most renowned pork in the world, from roast Segovian suckling pig to jamón Ibérico de bellota, the famous Iberian ham that comes from pigs fed on acorns. 

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Steamed Maine Lobster on Castilla-La Mancha Saffron Rice
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Roast Segovian Suckling Pig with Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Unique international ingredients are also featured, such as the kadaif pasta in the Crispy Kadaif-Wrapped Tiger Prawns with Mango-Chili Salsa.

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Crispy Kadaif-Wrapped Tiger Prawns with Mango-Chili Salsa

There are also delectable new appetizers, such as the Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Velouté and the Quinoa and Vegetable Tartare with Salmon Gravlax and Sherry Vinegar Cream.

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Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Velouté
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Quinoa and Vegetable Tartare with Salmon Gravlax and Sherry Vinegar Cream

The salads are exquisite as well. Check out the colorful Roasted Butternut Squash with Arugula, Mango, Black Radish, Hearts of Palm and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette and the work of art known as Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato-Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella. 

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Arugula, Mango, Black Radish, Hearts of Palm and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
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Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato-Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella

 

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Zen
Lest you think I’ve forgotten to mention the desserts, I’ve saved the best for last. The year 2013 marks Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, Chef Garanger has created a dessert as extraordinary as this special milestone. Named “Zen”, the dessert begins with a Valrhona 64% cacao Manjari chocolate bar, made from the finest Madagascan cacao beans. That is combined with milky gianduja hazelnut chocolate and citrus yuzu fruit and accompanied by a hazelnut croquant. Now that’s a dessert befitting a celebration of a decade at sea!

If you haven’t already left the blog site to reserve your next Oceania Cruises voyage so you can indulge in these wonderful new dishes, now is the time! But do check back throughout the week for behind-the-scenes stories revealing the secrets to creating such extraordinary cuisine, including an interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger. I’ll also share more mouthwatering photos that will have you wishing you could dine onboard every day of the year!

September 18, 2012

MEET THE OFFICERS: Marina General Manager Damien LaCroix

Of the many wonderful things I get to do in my role as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, one of my favorites is getting to know the warm and generous officers and crew. From everything I see, hear and experience, the sense of family that the staff creates is one of the main reasons Oceania Cruises has so many loyal and returning guests.

DownloadOn a recent cruise, I had the great pleasure of meeting Damien LaCroix, who has been a part of the Oceania Cruises family for eight years. Though his official title is General Manager onboard Marina, Damien considers himself a conductor, and after watching him “perform,” it’s obvious he can hold a baton with the best. When Damien is in charge the show flows seamlessly. Indeed, one might be tempted to think that his job is easy, given how effortlessly things unfold.

Originally from Lyon, France, Damien started with Renaissance Cruises. It was a good product but not upscale. He left Renaissance and joined a luxury resort in French Polynesia. It was there that Damien first got a call from Oceania Cruises asking him to come aboard. At first he resisted, because he didn’t want to leave the elegant atmosphere of the resort.

Oceania Cruises coaxed him into visiting one of the ships. He was immediately impressed with the ship and its focus of fine cuisine – the elegance, the presentation and the quality of service. He knew he could be happy in this environment. So in 2004 he accepted a position as Food and Beverage Director, and in 2007 he was promoted to General Manager.

Onboard Marina, he says there is never a typical day. Each day begins with a ship inspection, followed by a meeting with department heads. But after that, it is Damien’s job to be prepared for anything. While there is always a plan for what the day should look like, changes inevitably arise. Something as simple as the weather can present a logistical challenge, because on a rainy day the outside venues aren’t used, and the inside venues are all much busier.

Listening to Damien talk and watching him work, he thrives on handling the unexpected. He told a story about when cruises first began originating in China years ago. Guests had arrived for their cruise and were scheduled to embark at 11 am, but authorities delayed embarkation. Damien didn’t want guests to spend precious vacation hours just milling about the cruise terminal, so he quickly pulled the crew together to organize activities and provide food and drink.

Damien is quick to credit the wonderful people working with him for helping make each day a success. It is clear that the reason Oceania Cruises feels like a home away from home for guests is that it is a home away from home for staff as well. There is a real sense of family within the organization that is easily passed on to guests. Damien can often be found entertaining guests, who clearly enjoy his company, as he hosts cocktail parties or tables for dinner.

Choosing a favorite port of call from the vast array of wonderful destinations is tough for Damien. He enjoys Venice and Buenos Aires because ships often stay overnight there, and he can spend an evening exploring and enjoying dinner ashore. He thinks Santorini and Rhodes are gorgeous. And because he worked in Vietnam for three years, he loves stops in East Asia where he still has favorite places he likes to visit.

Of course the best part of working for Oceania Cruises is that it is where he met his wife Jackie, a cruise director. Since both he and Jackie work for Oceania Cruises, they know the lifestyle and enjoy the months of time off they have together. They recently welcomed Elise, the newest Oceania Cruises baby, to the family. Oceania Cruises has a family program, so if accommodations are available, Damien can bring his family onboard with him.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with several officers and crew members, and each one has been quick to tell me about Oceania Cruises’ commitment to family and to the happiness and well being of their staff. This is just one more reason that Damien and his team are so dedicated to the happiness of every guest onboard and to creating the warm, welcoming environment that makes guests feel so comfortable and cared for. No wonder so many guests say that each time they board an Oceania Cruises ship, it feels like coming home!

May 12, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO RIVIERA: RIVIERA IS CHRISTENED IN BARCELONA

May 10 2012 Cat_Cora-006It’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.

Riviera Christening05

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.

  Riviera Christening13

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.

Riviera Christening25
Soon it was time for guests to disembark, and the festivities were underway.

Riviera Christening18

Cruise Director Leslie Jon would be Master of Ceremony for the event.

Riviera Christening27

Godmother Cat Cora was seated at the front of the stage with President Kunal Kamlani and Vice Chairman Bob Binder at her side.

Riviera Christening31

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. 

Riviera Christening40

Riviera Christening59President 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.

Riviera Christening65

 

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.

Riviera Christening41b
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.

Riviera Christening44
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.”

Riviera Christening45
Right on cue, the bottle swung from its perch and crashed spectacularly into Riviera’s hull, exploding into a million pieces as confetti and music erupted in celebration.

Riviera Christening 70
Photo by David Ramos Vidal

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.
Riviera Christening52
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.

May 6, 2012

FINAL TOUCHES ON THE OWNER'S SUITE AS RIVIERA ARRIVES IN MONTE CARLO


Details in Owner's Suite

Many of you have asked to see more of the suites and staterooms onboard Riviera, so I have a few photos to share of the Owner’s Suites.

As with Marina, Susan Bednar Long of S. B. Long Interiors designed the Owner’s Suites with furnishings from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. I offered to lend a hand yesterday as Susan was putting the final touches on the suites. 

 Final OS Touches

Fluffing pillows

The bedroom looks fantastic. The bedspread is part of the newest collection from Ralph Lauren — so new in fact, that the bedspread has not yet arrived. It will soon be making its premier here on Riviera.

OS Bedroom

Some followers of the blog have asked about the differences in the furnishings on Riviera versus Marina. While they are extremely similar, one difference is a slight change in the colors of the veranda furniture in the Owner’s Suite.

Installing OS Outdoor Furniture

We encountered one small hitch when hanging the final artwork in the Owner’s Suites. One painting wouldn’t fit because someone had installed an iPad volume control in the middle of the foyer wall where the painting was to be displayed. Luckily we had a team of electricians on hand who could quickly move it.

On the phone

Soon the issue was resolved and the painting was in place.

Problem Solved

But I confess I’m burying the lead here. We were especially eager to ensure the final details were in place in the Owner’s Suite because Riviera arrived in Monte Carlo today and welcomed her first guests onboard for the Christening Cruise. You can see some fog rolling in, but that did not deter one gentleman from going for a dip in the pool.

IMG_5944

We’re preparing for the sail-away festivities so I’m off to celebrate. Today is not only the first day of the Christening Cruise, but also the official start of the countdown to Riviera's Maiden Voyage. We're 10 days away, so we'll be sure to continue the countdown here on the blog.

 

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!!!

May 3, 2012

KUNAL KAMLANI CELEBRATES RIVIERA'S FINAL NIGHT IN GENOA

Genoa View
What a day we had in Genoa! To begin the day, Master Luca Manzi and Staff Captain Andrea Catalani joined me for a coffee in Baristas, and then we took Riviera out for a test run.


Captains in Baristas
I am pleased to report that she performed beautifully, and I had the perfect view of the open sea from the balcony in one of our Vista Suites.


Open Sea
I couldn’t spend too long enjoying the view because the Christening Cruise is only four days away, and we are attending to the final details. There are still just a few pieces of art left to hang. You can see the one below is obviously one of Frank Del Rio’s favorites, as he is dressed to match!


Kunal and Frank
Today was a big day for everyone because tomorrow Riviera will sail on her three-day shakedown cruise. This will be her final dress rehearsal before guests for the Christening Cruise board in Monte Carlo on May 6. We will be at sea on May 4, stop in Cannes on May 5, and arrive in Monaco bright and early on Sunday. 

So tonight we decided it was time to celebrate! The shareholders, management team and several more good friends traveled just outside Genoa to a charming fishing village called Camogli.


Camogli
Here we dined at Ristorante Rosa with a beautiful view overlooking the sea. Ligurian food is known for its simple, traditional preparation using only the very finest ingredients. We enjoyed fresh baby artichokes, baby octopus, red mullet, and orata – one of the most sought-after fish in Italian markets. The best pesto in the world is also made in this region, so I was not going to miss out on the pennette in pesto sauce. It was absolutely wonderful.


Ristorante Rosa
Despite the delicious meal, it was hard to say which I enjoyed more – the food or the spectacular view from the restaurant. 


Italian Sunset
As the sun set along the Italian coastline, we all agreed this was the perfect celebration of Riviera’s final night in Genoa before she sets off to explore the world. We’re all looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow, and I will certainly continue to share all the latest news here on the blog.

May 2, 2012

BOB BINDER REPORTS FROM RIVIERA: PANINIS AND PING PONG

Butler Umbrellas
We had a bit of rain in Genoa today, but luckily we have our superb team of butlers to keep everyone dry.

Meanwhile, final preparations onboard continue. Chef Kelly is now settled in at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. She’s been working to get everything set up for our new classes, which include one-hour sessions on paninis and how to make friends with your pressure cooker. We now also offer a class called Beyond Brie that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about cheese.

 Bob and Chef Kelly-2 Bob and Chef Kelly

She’s also been making final arrangements for our new Culinary Discovery Tours that will launch with Riviera. When she was onboard Marina, she recently did some exploring in Sicily looking for potential tour destinations. She took a small group on a treasure hunt through the farmers market in Catania; then they filled some cannolis in a bakery in Taormina; and then they were off to a winery on Mt. Etna. Finally they returned to the ship to hand-roll pasta using the ingredients from the farmers market. Phew!

Chef Kelly also told me about a new Culinary Discovery Tour she is planning for St. Petersburg called Cuisine of the Czars. You explore local shops and restaurants to learn what the czars and peasants have historically eaten in Russia during each season. Of course, back on board everyone eats like a czar.

Speaking of eating like a czar, the onboard restaurants are almost ready. New recipes are being finalized, and the staff is already providing their excellent service because after all, chefs have to eat too.

Chef Lunch
The olive oil from Riviera’s godmother, Chef Cat Cora, will be served in Toscana. Considering her Greek heritage, Chef Cora certainly knows her olive oil. Now I’ll have an even tougher time deciding which olive oil to order.

Olive OilAnd don’t worry, after indulging in the onboard restaurants, there will be plenty of activity on the decks to work off some calories. Today I played the inaugural game of ping pong on our new table.

New Ping Pong Table
I have the same table at home so I like to think I know how to play. I have a pocket full of Big O Points for anyone who can beat me.

We are also all setup for shuffleboard, bocce, croquet and miniature golf.

Riviera Miniature Golf
In fact, all the decks are coming to life, and we're putting the final polish on the indoor venues as well.

Riviera Pool Deck  Grand Dining Room Polish
As you can see, we’re nearly ready to welcome the first guests onboard! More photos to come soon.

May 1, 2012

PRESIDENT KUNAL KAMLANI BOARDS RIVIERA

Vista Balcony ViewThe moment I’ve been waiting for finally arrived. Today I set foot onboard Riviera for the first time. I arrived in Genoa a bit jet-lagged, but that didn’t dampen my excitement. And Riviera certainly did not disappoint. 

It’s been a frenzy of final preparations since I boarded the ship, but I did manage to capture a few photos. I’ve been sharing on the blog how excited I was to see the Grand Staircase, especially because above the staircase, Riviera has a custom-crafted Italian chandelier. Below you can see how brilliantly it glows; trust me, the photo still does not do it justice. 

Grand Staircase Chandelier Lit

Here is the Lalique vase on the famous Cactus Table at the base of the Grand Staircase.

Riviera Grand Staircase
As excited as I was to see Riviera, I was even more excited to meet the officers, staff and crew. As I entered my suite, I was greeted by two familiar fellows – Vijay and Sandeep. They are members of our top-notch butler staff and always have a warm smile. My family has sailed with them before so it was great to see them aboard. They represent the heart and soul of this ship, and it is their commitment and dedication that have brought Riviera to life. 

Two of Riviera's Finest
I cannot wait for all of our guests to have the experience that I did today of boarding Riviera for the first time and being welcomed by the Oceania Cruises family. However, you may not want to embarrass yourself as I did today when embarking. As I drove up the pier and got out of the car, I must have stood there for five solid minutes just staring at Riviera. I was simply reflecting on her beauty and on all that this team has accomplished. In his classic French accent, General Manager Thierry Tholon finally called from the gangway, "Are you joining us, or are you just going to watch us from the pier?" I realized I had stared a bit too long and made my way up the gangway.

I will continue to share stories and photos as we approach Riviera’s Christening Cruise and her momentous Maiden Voyage. I hope you’ll enjoy following the journey here on the blog, and please feel free to share your comments below.

BOB BINDER ON BURGERS AND BEGONIAS


Chef Garanger Prepares Tasting     Waves Tasting
If you read my post yesterday, you’ll recall that I was about to indulge in a burger tasting at Waves Grill. I am here to report that, as you might imagine, I was thoroughly impressed with the latest burgers from Chef Franck Garanger. As our Fleet Corporate Chef, he is responsible for many of the new recipes that will be unveiled onboard Riviera, and each dish we’ve tasted onboard has been better than the last.

Burger Tasting    Waves Fries
Of course, we’ve tried some exquisite dishes, such as the hoisin-sautéed duck foie gras with pecan and cucumber salad that will soon be featured in La Reserve. But some days you just want a great burger. And when Chef Garanger is involved, even a burger becomes a work of art. How does a Kobe beef burger with black truffle sauce and baby cress sound? Or perhaps the newest twist to be featured in Waves – the Alaskan salmon burger with Béarnaise tartar sauce and spicy slaw. And it goes without saying that Waves has the best fries anywhere.

While I love to take every possible opportunity to get involved in food tastings, one area in which I am definitely hands-off is the floral department. At home my flowers shrivel up after a day or two, so I’ve been sure to keep my “non-green thumbs” away from the plants onboard Riviera.

40 Varieties - 2
More than 40 varieties of flowers will be featured onboard. They come from all over the world – just like our international crew. And you will NEVER find an artificial plant onboard an Oceania Cruises ship.

Florist    Orchid
I’d better get back to work as we’re six days and counting from the sailing of Riviera’s Christening Cruise. President Kunal Kamlani joined us today and will be sharing his impressions of Riviera here on the blog as well. Hint: I think he’ll be pretty impressed.

April 30, 2012

VICE CHAIRMAN BOB BINDER SENDS GREETINGS FROM RIVIERA

New Artwork at Red GingerHello from Riviera!

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."

Celebrate in Vietnamese
The next painting says "Serenity" in Thai. I especially like it because it reflects the harmony of Red Ginger's bold, yet tranquil, design.

Serenity in Thai
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.

Red Ginger Table
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!

April 27, 2012

IT'S OFFICIAL! OCEANIA CRUISES TAKES DELIVERY OF RIVIERA

Displaying the flag
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

Lowering the Fincantieri Flag

Preparing to hoist the Oceania Cruises flag
Hoisting the flag

It's official!
Oceania Cruises flag flies
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.

The official handshake
Watch the blog for more photos and stories on Riviera as she makes her exciting debut.

April 24, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES TO TAKE DELIVERY OF NEW ‘RIVIERA’

Posted by Kunal S. Kamlani, President

RIVIERA 1a - ©PUBLIFOTO Genova-1
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.

RIVIERA - 2a - ©PUBLIFOTO Genova
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.

Atrium Chandelier-2
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.

March 27, 2012

POST FROM THE PRESIDENT: RIVIERA COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL SEA TRIALS

AerialRiviera
I am pleased to report that Riviera completed her sea trials today, and she has passed with flying colors. Our executive vice president of vessel operations, Robin Lindsay, was onboard for the trials and described them as “a resounding success.” He said that Captain Luca Manzi was exceptionally pleased with Riviera’s performance and that she handled perfectly in all situations.

And sea trials are no walk in the park. This is the first time that a new ship is really put to the test to ensure she will perform. During the final set of trials, Riviera sailed the Mediterranean for three days, encountering various sea conditions and employing all power settings. Meanwhile, an entire team of technicians and engineers from both Oceania Cruises and the Fincantieri shipyard were onboard evaluating her every move. The teams assessed not only Riviera’s speed (she easily cruised at more than 21 knots with ample reserve power), but also her maneuverability, hydrodynamics, propulsion and safety systems.

Each time I receive news of Riviera’s latest success, my anticipation of her christening and maiden voyage grows. Now that sea trials are finished, the team can focus their undivided attention on the final details of the interior, which is sure to be as stunning as that of her sister ship, Marina. I thought we’d share a few pictures from Italy while we wait for Riviera to be unveiled in all her glory.

A dramatic image of the crest adorning Riviera's bowRVA bow crest

A sunset view from the bridge
Riviera Bridge

The pool deck glows at night

Riviera Pool

Watch for more photos and updates from the shipyard soon.

March 23, 2012

A CELEBRATION OF THE FIRST OCEANIA CLUB DIAMOND MEMBERS

Kohel Privee3

 

 

Last week on Marina’s final Caribbean sailing of the season, the officers, staff and crew celebrated a tremendous milestone with two very special guests. The March 7th sailing of Caribbean Pearls marked the 40th cruise for Jerome and Elizabeth Kohel, making them the first guests to become Oceania Club Diamond members and the most frequent guests in Oceania Cruises history.

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While Marina was docked in Miami, Oceania Cruises President Kunal S. Kamlani hosted a lunch for the Kohels onboard in Privée. The guests of honor were joined by Executive Vice President of Passenger Services Victor Gonzalez, Manager of Loyalty Marketing Nick DeSantis, Oceania Club Ambassador Jennifer Faust, and Kunal's wife, Daniela.

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Victor Gonzalez, Jennifer Faust, Jerome Kohel, Elizabeth Kohel, Kunal S. Kamlani, Daniela Kamlani, and Nick DeSantis


The Kohels hail from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and they first sailed with Oceania Cruises onboard Regatta in March 2004. They have since cruised for over 520 days and visited more than 60 countries. While the Kohels have sailed all over the world, the Caribbean is one of their favorite destinations. They like the escape from the Michigan winters, and the relatively short flight to embarkation in Miami gives the Caribbean a slight advantage over transatlantic destinations such as Europe and Africa.

No matter what the itinerary, the Oceania Cruises family keeps the Kohels coming back time and again. “We came for the ships. We came back for the crew,” says Mr. Kohel.

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Captain Dimitrios Flokos, Mr. and Mrs. Kohel, and General Manager Damien Lacroix


Both Mr. and Mrs. Kohel sing the praises of the entire Oceania Cruises team, saying how much they look forward to seeing all of the familiar faces and warm smiles each time they return to the ships. So many of the officers, staff and crew have become dear friends that it feels as if they’re being welcomed home by family each time they embark on a new voyage. The Kohels say they have especially enjoyed watching staff members move up through the ranks, as they have seen so many promoted to new positions over the years.

On every Oceania Cruises voyage, past guests are celebrated and milestone cruises are recognized during the Oceania Club cocktail party. At this special event held in Horizons, Oceania Club Ambassador Jennifer Faust introduced the Kohels, and Captain Dimitrios Flokos presented them with their Diamond Oceania Club pins. General Manager Damien Lacroix also offered his congratulations, and Cruise Director Dottie Kulasa had a beautiful bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Kohel.

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Mr. Kohel, Dottie Kulasa, Jennifer Faust and Mrs. Kohel


While the Kohels are not particularly fond of the spotlight, they graciously accepted the expressions of gratitude from the captain and senior officers and agreed to let us share their story with you here on the blog. Enjoy this short video of the momentous occasion.

 

March 2, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES GODMOTHER OF RIVIERA

There are certain days in the life of a ship that are unforgettable. Her christening ceremony and her maiden voyage, along with milestones such as the laying of the keel and the floating out, are perfect examples. And while all of those are important to the ship, they are also important to those involved in building her. Perhaps one of the most exciting for the team behind Riviera is the day we are able to announce her godmother.

That’s why I couldn’t be more proud today to reveal that celebrity chef Cat Cora will do the honors at a lavish christening ceremony in Barcelona on May 11. Cat Cora’s passion for fine cuisine and her focus on the dining experience captures the essence of what we do every day. We are all excited to have her christen our newest ship and are proud to welcome her to the Oceania Cruises family.

Chef Cora and Kunal Kamlani

Chef Cat Cora and Oceania Cruises President Kunal Kamlani

Cat made television history as the first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, and this spring, steps into a role as co-host of Bravo’s new television show Around the World in 80 Plates with Curtis Stone. The show follows 12 chefs competing in a culinary race across 10 countries in 44 days. Many of the countries featured in the show include destinations that Riviera will visit during her inaugural season.

In addition to her television credits, Chef Cora operates four restaurants: Kouzzina at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort in Orlando, CCQ, in partnership with Macy’s in Costa Mesa, California, and Cat Cora’s Kitchen in San Francisco and Houston. A third Cat Cora’s Kitchen location will be opening in Salt Lake City later this month. In addition to being a restaurateur, she also has her own branded olive oils, vinegars, sauces, tapenades and cookware and is the author of three best-selling cookbooks and a children’s book. 

CAT CORA 105Her accomplishments in her chosen field are impressive, to say the least. But there’s a special balance that we have always sought to achieve when selecting godmothers for the Oceania Cruises fleet. It’s somewhat indefinable, but it is an equilibrium between success in career pursuits and an understanding that with that success comes a responsibility for making lives better, for seeking out opportunities to give back, and for committing one’s self to a cause with the same passion as that displayed in one’s professional endeavors.

I’m thrilled to say that Cat Cora embodies all of these qualities and strikes that balance – infused with passion – that few people can claim. Like all of us, Cat watched in horror at the heart-wrenching videos coming out of Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004. But unlike many, Cat decided to do something about it. She has always been dedicated to philanthropic efforts to support emergency, educational and hunger-related causes. As a result of the suffering she saw in the wake of that tragic tsunami, she started Chefs for Humanity. She is president and founder of an organization dedicated to reducing hunger worldwide by supporting humanitarian relief and promoting nutrition education.

Perhaps just as important as her success in the culinary field and her work with Chefs for Humanity, Cat Cora is an amazing person who is funny, kind and caring. She immediately makes you feel at home, whether it be in her home, one of her restaurants, or simply sitting in an office. Her kind heart is immediately apparent and is symbolic of the Oceania Cruises onboard experience. We want you to feel at home, to feel the warmth of those around you, and to be completely at ease. That is what Riviera will be and that is who Cat Cora already is. She is a fantastic lady, and we are thrilled that she has accepted our invitation to be godmother of our latest pride and joy.

If you’d like to learn more about Cat Cora and her charity, Chefs for Humanity, please visit www.catcora.com and follow Cat on Twitter (@catcora) and Facebook. Perhaps she will inspire you as much as she has inspired all of us at Oceania Cruises.

Kunal Kamlani
President, Oceania Cruises

 

January 11, 2012

LALIQUE AND OCEANIA CRUISES: A PERFECT PAIR

Hustace Photo-9-Grand StaircaseThe Grand Staircase is an icon onboard all the ships of Oceania Cruises and a signature element of our brand. To create this extraordinary centerpiece for Marina, we looked to the master artisans from Lalique, a company renowned for its unique expertise in the artistry of fine crystal. As the interior begins to take shape on Marina’s sister ship, Riviera, that same Lalique staircase will be the dramatic focal point of the reception area. 

Founded over a century ago, Lalique continues the legacy of the incomparable René Lalique. First renowned for his innovative Art Nouveau jewelry pieces, René Lalique was intrigued by the medium of glass. It became the focus of his mastery and his primary means of artistic expression, even as he expanded into the realm of architecture.

Today’s Lalique artisans are known as “sculptors of light,” embracing the strange alchemy that takes place between the sensitivity of the artist and the know-how of the craftsman. One easily recognizes the style of Lalique through its hand-finished form, intricately sculptured detailing, and vivid contrasts between clear and matte crystal.

“We’re very overprotective of the brand, to a fault at times,” says Maz Zouhairi, President and CEO of Lalique North America. “When this partnership came about, or the idea was born, we had to do our research and make sure that the two names, the two brands were compatible with each other.”

They certainly are. Both the ships of Oceania Cruises and the crystal masterpieces of Lalique are renowned for their elegance and artistry, and the partnership has been a perfect pairing.

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Riviera's Grand Staircase as it appeared a few months ago and as it will appear a few months from now

The Grand Staircase of Riviera features ornate double stairways with balustrades of crystal medallions. The dramatic centerpiece is Lalique’s highly prestigious Cactus Table crowned with an exquisite Lalique vase. The creation of the Grand Staircase involved 37 French artisans working 1,600 hours to handcraft 4,600 pounds of pure Lalique crystal.

Guests onboard Marina have been amazed by the results of the artisans’ craftsmanship, and when Riviera is unveiled in April, the Grand Staircase will certainly have the same impact. In fact, one guest was so impressed with this Lalique creation, he had the same staircase built into his own home, complete with the lit newel post at the base.

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There is certainly no greater compliment than that!

December 30, 2011

THANKS FOR A WONDERFUL 2011 FROM THE BON APPETIT CULINARY CENTER!

 

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As I look at the happy faces of our students, friends and colleagues who joined us in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center this year, I am filled with joy. When we opened the culinary center onboard Marina earlier this year, we had no precedent to follow — we were the first hands-on cooking school at sea. By the time Marina had completed her maiden voyage, we already knew that we had created something really special. So with this blog post, I send heartfelt thanks to the many people who made this dream a reality.

Oceania Cruises Leaders: Everyone involved is so grateful to Chairman & CEO Frank Del Rio and Vice Chairman Bob Binder for envisioning a cruise ship designed for foodies. The Bon Appétit Culinary Center was Bob’s vision, his passion and his “baby.” He saw what a special place it would be for our guests to enrich themselves, have fun, meet new friends, experiment with local foods and wines, and explore the markets and cuisines of the world.

Oceania Cruises Executive Team: You can only imagine how demanding it is to launch a new ship. Well, imagine what it is like to add to that a prototype culinary center with new equipment, logistics, staff and demands. Every day, and every step of the way, our leaders and executive team were behind us and always cheerfully asking, “What do you need, Chef?” It doesn’t get any better than that!

Officers and Crew of Marina: As a guest on Insignia twice, I had no idea what went on behind the scenes in order to make the sailings such a success. As a new employee of the company, I was amazed (and still am) by the professionalism, collegiality and skill of our officers and crew. Without them, I would not have survived this maiden year. And it is because of them that I truly miss my “ship family” when I am on vacation at home.

Oceania Cruises Culinary Team: From the moment I arrived, the executive chefs (who were very busy opening new restaurants and venues onboard Marina) made me feel welcome. The first few months were challenging, but we never lost our sense of purpose — or our sense of humor. Franck, Wolfgang, Tino, Olivier, Laurent and Eric…you are my heroes! And I would be remiss not to thank Master Chef Jacques Pépin, who is our Executive Culinary Director. His support has been very much appreciated.

Bon Appétit Culinary Center Team: As so many of you who have taken classes know, our staff is prepared, enthusiastic and unflappable. I have worked with so many talented sous chefs — Asif, Maddi, Seyto, Venish, Tyrone, Kripton, Daniel and Alka. I know how much it has meant to them to interact with the guests, which they don’t often get the chance to do in the galley. And to Chef Steven, who navigated the trail, my deepest thanks. 

Guest Chefs and Instructors: We have been honored to have two chefs, Chef Eisenhauer and Chef Velie, join us from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), my alma mater. They have helped us with both cuisine and instruction and will continue to remain on our faculty-at-large. Chef Annie Copps, who will also continue with us in 2012, has been a joy and has delighted many of our guests with her sparkling personality and unbridled enthusiasm.

Finally, and most importantly, our guests…


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Some of you took classes because you wanted to take a recipe home from Red Ginger, others because you were curious to discover what this cooking school was all about. Some found out that we tasted wine while we cooked — so you were in! And then there were the students who wanted to master the soccarat in paella, the ganache for truffles, the cartouche for shallow-poached shrimp, and the grilled pizza crust for your creations at home. Regardless of the reason, we are glad you came, cooked, tasted, laughed, made new friends, learned new recipes, mastered egg cookery or made your first fresh pasta.

As a final farewell to 2011 and a tribute to all of our guests in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, I’d like to share some of the treasured memories from our inaugural season. I hope those of you who experienced the culinary center this past year will remember these concepts fondly (and review them at home!).

As the song goes, “these are a few of my favorite things..."

  • Boiling, salted water
  • Caramelization
  • Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami
  • Emulsion
  • Temping chocolate
  • Onion and garlic cookery
  • Searing hot grilling
  • Paella soccarat
  • Induction
  • Digital thermometers

We love you all and look forward to seeing you in 2012!

God Bless and Happy New Year!

Chef Kelly

Executive Chef

Bon Appétit Culinary Center

November 30, 2011

RIVIERA WILL SOON BE SHIPSHAPE!

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Excitement continues to build in anticipation of the maiden voyage of Oceania Cruises' newest ship, Riviera. The April christening is just a few months away, and if you've already booked a cruise on Riviera for her inaugural season, you must certainly be curious about how she is progressing.

While there is still much work to be done for Riviera to evolve into the stunning vessel that will be sister to Marina, these photos from the shipyard indicate that Riviera is coming together right on schedule. The graceful balustrades of The Grand Staircase are taking shape, and with a little imagination, one can envision the ornate Lalique crystal that will soon adorn them.

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Furnishings already in place are carefully protected while work continues around them. Concentric circles designate the spot where the Grand Dining Room's magnificent chandelier will be mounted. 

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Craftsmen work under cover to create what will soon become the beautiful pool deck.

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It is fascinating to conceive how a talented team of designers, engineers and shipbuilders can turn raw materials into such a vision of elegance and sophistication. We will continue to share updates from the shipyard as Riviera transforms into the majestic ship she is destined to become. 

 

September 27, 2011

MEET THE CREW: Desktop Publisher Jessica Domm

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Jessica Domm loves her job. As a desktop publisher onboard Marina, Jessica says that even when she works long hours, she hardly notices the time passing. Her work is so enjoyable it doesn’t even feel like a “real job.” With her winning smile and boundless enthusiasm, one imagines she brings the same positive energy to all aspects of her life.

After graduating with a degree in graphic design from York University in Toronto, Jessica’s first job was doing system administrator inventory, which did not challenge her in the way she wished. As her uncle was a retired cruise captain, she decided to pursue the family business and apply for a job in the cruise industry. While she did not take advantage of her uncle’s industry connections, she did take his advice, as he recommended she try Oceania Cruises. She applied online, and two days before Christmas, she received the news that she would be starting onboard Regatta in January of 2010.

Was she excited? “I was terrified,” says Jessica. “I’d never been outside of Canada before. But I got on a plane and joined Regatta in Miami and never looked back. Best decision I ever made in my life.”

Jessica is responsible for all of the onboard printed materials, from newsletters to menus to embarkation information to posters. Besides enjoying her design work, Jessica also sings the praises of her coworkers. Jessica says one of the great pleasures of her job is the fantastic group of people with whom she gets to work.

Jessica had only been onboard for three weeks when her 26th birthday came around. To her surprise, everyone threw her a big party with cake and champagne. “The first thing I thought was, if I can’t be with my own family, I’m so glad I’m here with my Oceania Cruises family. It was fantastic. I never felt more like I belonged some place." 

Jessica Domm - Miami Jessica with Social Hostess Margaret Lynn Scoggins and Oceania Club Ambassador Per Orren

Of course, the work is not without its challenges. Jessica was chosen to be on the team for the inaugural sailings of Marina, and preparing a new ship for its maiden voyage was no easy task. The staff and crew had been living on the ship for two weeks before the first guests came onboard, and they were still putting the finishing touches on Marina as the first guest set foot on her decks.

“It was challenging,” says Jessica, “but looking back now, it was worth it. It was worth all those hours I spent in my office and all the work put into it. It really turned out well, and it’s something that we’re all very proud of.”

When she was approached about participating in Riviera’s debut in April 2012, what was Jessica’s response? “I’ll be there with bells on!” she exclaims. 

September 16, 2011

TASTE THE WORLD: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises

Taste the World Cookbook
Fans of the exquisite cuisine served onboard Oceania Cruises ships will be thrilled to know that they can now try many of these fabulous recipes in their own homes! Taste the World, the culinary lifestyle book from Oceania Cruises, is now available on Amazon.com. Not only does it contain numerous recipes featured onboard Oceania Cruises ships, but it also includes fascinating stories from the chefs and staff, as well as a look behind the scenes during a full day and night of culinary wizardry in the onboard galleys. 

Those less experienced in the culinary arts need not be intimidated by the vast array of recipes featured in Taste the World. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I felt compelled to try a few of the recipes at home myself, and I can attest to the fact that even a novice in the kitchen can successfully prepare these dishes. And if you aren't currently onboard savoring the luxuries of an Oceania Cruise, this is the perfect way to enjoy the Oceania Cruises experience at home!

On the back cover of the book is a picture of Jacques Pépin and members of the Oceania Cruises culinary team shopping in a seafood market. My husband and I decided to begin our culinary journey in similar fashion and compiled a list of interesting recipes revolving around the sea.

We discovered so many delectable options that we initially had a seven-course meal on our hands. Lacking a professional chef's kitchen, we decided it would be wise to scale our choices down to three.

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On page 125 we selected the Sesame-Seared Tuna with Vegetable Tartare. You can see from the photo above that we had our work cut out for us. We turned the page to find Tiger Prawns with Sauce Remoulade along with a recipe for Court Bouillon. And on page 224, we decided on the Pan-Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Mousseline.

Any chef would have been proud as we compiled our prep and shopping lists. Since my husband and I are landlocked, finding a seaside market is not an option, but we did very well with a local purveyor. As the shop was quaint in size and selection, we did need to finish our shopping at another store but were able to secure the necessary ingredients in a timely fashion.

As we began our culinary soiree, my husband noted that he was missing the chef’s hat that he had worn during our class at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina. His next realization was that he had forgotten the first rule we had learned in that class:  Always have a glass of wine in hand when you begin cooking. We quickly resolved these issues, and once everything was in order, we started preparing for our feast.

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The next couple of hours focused on prepping all of the necessary ingredients and, and in accordance with what we had learned from Chef Kelly at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, we prepared our “mis-en-place." Soon the vegetable tartare rolls were laid out on their plates while the shrimp danced in the bouillon before going into an ice bath.

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We coordinated our steps and were able to move about the kitchen without getting in each other’s way. We soon found ourselves wrapping up the cooking process and just a few minutes away from enjoying our dinner. 

The results were in...

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Tiger Prawns with Sauce Remoulade

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Pan-Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Mousseline

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Sesame-Seared Tuna with Vegetable Tartare

While our presentation wasn't exactly up to Oceania Cruises standards, we were quite pleased with how closely our tuna resembled the photo in the book. We paired the food with a sauvignon blanc and sat down to enjoy our dinner and reflect on the process. We agreed the day had been great fun, and now it was time to relax while enjoying the fruits of our labor. Each dish was delicious!

We plan to revisit Taste the World again very soon. Of course, we are also looking forward to returning to Oceania Cruises ships where the talented chefs will prepare these fantastic dishes for us!

 

July 17, 2011

Riviera Floated Out At The Fincantieri Shipyard in Genoa

Oceania Cruises celebrated a major milestone on Saturday, July 16, as the Riviera was afloat for the first time and moved from the construction dock to her fitting-out berth. 

What a difference a month makes! Compare these photos to those posted at the end of June during the last construction update.  Riviera is Starting to Take Shape!

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“The float out of a ship is a beautiful occasion which marks the beginning of her life and we are eagerly anticipating the day next spring that we can unveil her to the world,” stated Frank Del Rio, Chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings and founder of Oceania Cruises.

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The sequence of events began last Wednesday as the ship was blessed by shipyard clergy.

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Then the shipyard workers opened dozens of sluices and thousands of gallons of seawater began to enter the building dock.

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Three days later, Riviera is fully afloat.

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Then Riviera begins her very first voyage, albeit not under her own power. Here, the shipyard tugs have just completed their first task, towing her very gently from the building dock into the harbor.

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The tugs then begin the task of turning her around so that she can be properly positioned at her fitting out berth.

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She is now turned almost 270 degrees and ready to begin her short journey across the harbor.

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Almost there...

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Home at last!

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Here is another view of the immense fitting-out pier that will be Riviera's home for the next nine months as thousands of craftsman begin fitting out and finishing her magnificent, designer interiors. You can see the gargantuan crane which is capable of lifting hundreds of tons and they have just begun securing the tower of exterior construction elevators to the port side of the ship.

Stay tuned for the next update in which we will give you a tour of the massive warehouse at the shipyard that will house everything that is used to fit out the interiors.

 

July 14, 2011

Oceania Cruises' Marina Featured on The Travel Channel

Travel Channel presenter Julie Peasgoode sailed aboard Marina during a 10-day Pearls of the Riviera cruise through the glorious Mediterranean earlier this year.

Why not join her for a virtual voyage and see what Julie has to say about Marina and all of her culinary delights and surprises.

Bon Voyage!

 

July 8, 2011

FILMING WITH MARY HART IN LOS ANGELES

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Followers of our blog will recall that beloved television personality Mary Hart officiated as Godmother to Oceania Cruises’ Marina at the Christening Ceremony for the new ship earlier this year. As Senior Vice President of Marketing for Oceania Cruises, I have now had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Hart several times. But today was certainly the most exciting, as I was able to join Ms. Hart in front of the cameras!

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Ms. Hart, myself (pictured right) and Vice President of Corporate Communications Gary Gerbino (pictured left) spent today in Los Angeles recording her voice-overs and filming her camera appearances for our upcoming DVD. While I’ve filmed marketing pieces before, I’ve not often done so in a Burbank studio with a pro like Mary Hart, and I usually choose to stay behind the camera. It was quite exciting to be in the middle of all the action and get a taste of what it’s like to be in the spotlight. (But I don’t plan to quit my day job.)

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Ms. Hart is truly passionate about Oceania Cruises, so passionate in fact, that she took liberties with the script when she felt it necessary to express more strongly her appreciation for the Oceania Cruises experience. She was even wearing the Cartier necklace that she was given as Godmother of Marina. It was presented to her by Oceania Cruises Founder and CEO Frank Del Rio before the Christening Ceremony in February.

I’ve worked with Mary on several occasions since she first accepted our invitation to be Godmother of Marina, and each time has been a pleasure and a privilege. I look forward to our next meeting in person, and also to seeing Ms. Hart in the Oceania Cruises DVD!

June 22, 2011

RIVIERA IS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE!


       

Riviera 1
Many fans of Oceania Cruises have been requesting updates on our new ship, Riviera, which is scheduled to debut in April 2012. We are happy to announce that construction is right on schedule, and Riviera is really starting to take shape.

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You can already imagine how Riviera will continue to evolve into a ship of great beauty and elegance as the work progresses. 

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Riviera is almost structurally complete, and we expect her to reach her next big milestone in about three weeks, when she is floated for the first time.

Yes, Riviera will touch the sea for the first time and be moved from her building dock to the outfitting pier. While making sure she floats is extremely important, the bigger story is the official change from "construction" to "finishing work."

Once she moves to the outfitting pier, thousands of contractors will start installing her exquisite hand-crafted interiors — a process that will take more than eight months. But then again, you can't rush perfection!

The Oceania Cruises family is always excited to receive updates from the shipyard, as we are all eagerly anticipating Riviera's arrival on the scene. She is certain to follow gracefully in the footsteps of her sister ship, Marina, and be welcomed with equally wide acclaim. As Oceania Cruises' founder Frank Del Rio likes to say, "There's only one thing better than one new ship — and that's TWO new ships!" 

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While we all await Riviera's arrival, the beautiful ships in our current fleet continue to sail to intriguing destinations worldwide. If you follow the blog, you recently enjoyed stunning photos from Regatta's adventures in Alaska. Insignia has been exploring the charming towns and majestic fjords of Norway, while guests onboard Nautica enjoyed an overnight stay in Jerusalem where they could witness the myriad of sacred religious sites. Marina will spend tonight in St. Petersburg, so guests can linger over the vast art collections of the Hermitage or marvel at the beauty of Catherine's Palace. We hope to be able to bring you more "photo voyages" in the very near future.

Thank you to all of our loyal guests who continue to share their stories of past adventures with Oceania Cruises as well as their excitement for upcoming voyages.

June 16, 2011

MEET THE CREW: Deck Cadet Lloyd Shettle

      

Lloyd1
On one of my recent cruises onboard Regatta, I had the pleasure of meeting a Deck Cadet in training, Mr. Lloyd Shettle. At only 17 years old, Lloyd was by far the youngest crew member onboard Regatta. Hailing from the Isle of Wight in the UK, Lloyd had come to his position through his father, who worked as a recruiter for cadets in nearby Southampton. Like most of us, Lloyd was uncertain of what career he wanted to pursue after completing his primary schooling, so at his father’s suggestion, he applied for the Deck Cadet position. Impressed by his interview, Regent Seven Seas Cruises agreed to sponsor Lloyd but did not have space for him at the time. So Lloyd found a home onboard Regent Seven Seas’ sister line, Oceania Cruises.

Lloyd2 Lloyd’s training began with four months in the Maritime Academy in Southampton. He says he dreaded the first day at the university, but from the moment he started, he loved every minute of it. Cadets study all aspects of general ship knowledge, from the trigonometry of maps and charts to the lights and flags of navigation signals. After his initial university study, Lloyd came onboard Regatta to begin his hands-on experience. He will continue to alternate months of university study and time at sea until he accumulates a total of two years at the academy and one year of sea time. Then he can take oral exams with the British Coast Guard and become a Third Officer. 

Lloyd is the first hand on deck in the morning, awakening early each day to be on the Bridge an hour before the Captain and begin routine equipment checks. He generally starts around 4:00 a.m. and takes part in checking the radar, gauging the ship’s position using various charts, watching out from the bridge for any dangers ahead, checking the ballast, and other duties. He has an enormous training manual in which the Captain and Officers must sign attesting to Lloyd’s proficiency in tasks ranging from the deck to the engine department.

Lloyd will have many career options after completing his training. There are opportunities for work ashore in the maritime field, or he could continue to advance to Second Officer and Chief Officer onboard. With further study his career path could lead him becoming a Captain. Officers are needed on cargo ships as well, but Lloyd says he prefers the passenger ships as he is “quite a social person.” He also says he greatly enjoys life onboard since every day is different and offers a new challenge. And of course, there is the added opportunity of seeing fascinating ports of call the world over.

“Not many people can say they’ve sailed around the world on a cruise ship while working and earning money for it as well,” says Lloyd.

In his free time, Lloyd is a musician who plays guitar and drums and also likes to DJ at local nightclubs. But he won’t have much free time on his hands over the next few years. While most crew members enjoy a few months of vacation at the end of a contract, Lloyd returns to the university to continue his studies. Oceania Cruises is pleased to have such a dedicated and hard-working young man as part of their crew and looks forward to his ongoing successes.

Lloyd4
I can attest that Lloyd’s future looks bright, as I happened to board a tender the next day and find that he was in training at the boat’s helm. The seas were a bit rough that day, and maneuvering the tender alongside the ship would’ve been a challenge even for a more experienced crew member. But Lloyd performed very well. The guests onboard could observe that he was receiving instructions from a senior crew member, and as Lloyd successfully brought the tender into position next to the ship, a round of applause rose from the guests in a show of support. 

Lloyd3
Best wishes to you Lloyd as you advance in your career with Oceania Cruises!

 


June 13, 2011

Oceania Cruises' Founder Frank Del Rio Featured in New York Times

       

Frank Del Rio
Frank Del Rio, founder of Oceania Cruises and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, was featured in the New York Times yesterday. He tells the story of how his family emigrated from Cuba when he was almost seven years old. After being processed at the Freedom Tower in Miami, the family went to Connecticut to stay with an uncle. They came to the U.S. with just one suitcase each because Del Rio’s parents thought that Fidel Castro couldn’t possibly remain in power in Cuba for very long.

They stayed in Connecticut for nine years before moving to Miami. Del Rio goes on to tell how he met his wife, Marcia, built a career in the cruise industry, and learned the keys to creating a successful cruise line.

Read more of the article and learn Frank’s whole story at the link below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/jobs/12boss.html


May 24, 2011

A SALUTE TO OCEANIA CRUISES' EXTRAORDINARY STAFF AND CREW

  

Dining Reservations

Anyone who has traveled with Oceania Cruises knows that a large part of what makes these voyages so special is the fabulous staff and crew onboard Oceania Cruises’ ships. Their warmth, enthusiasm and sincerity put you instantly at ease, and their genuine desire to anticipate your every need distinguishes Oceania Cruises’ team members from all others.

Ishmael

I am constantly amazed at how they remember my name after meeting me once, and then remember me again when seeing me several months later on another cruise. My husband and I first met Ishmael, pictured above left, on our honeymoon cruise when he was our server in the Grand Dining Room. We've since seen him on two subsequent cruises and were pleased to discover he is now a Butler for the Suites!

Toscana Crew
Toscana Celebration When the staff onboard feel so much like dear friends, it truly elevates the entire vacation experience in a way that I have not seen matched anywhere else at sea or ashore. It is one of the reasons that an Oceania Cruise is such a great place to celebrate a special occasion. Of course, every Oceania Cruise is a special event, but if you happen to have a milestone to commemorate or any occasion you want to remember fondly for years to come, Oceania Cruises’ staff will ensure that you celebrate in style. I turned 40 this month during the Grecian Glory cruise onboard Marina, and while most of my family was back in the States, my Oceania Cruises family made me feel right at home, and I was so pleased to be celebrating with them. You can see the fun we had with all our friends who took such good care of us in Toscana.

Casino Bartenders
My experiences onboard have been made so special by so many Oceania Cruises staff members that I hesitate to point out any one in particular. But I would be remiss were I not to share at least a few photos as a salute to the team so dedicated to Oceania Cruises’ success and the happiness of every guest. In honor of the entire Oceania Cruises family, I share a few of its esteemed members:

Irina
Irina's warm smile has greeted me at Reception on several cruises.

Julia
I so enjoyed seeing Julia each day in the halls of Regatta last September.

Gerry De la Paz
Gerry is someone whom most of you will never see, but as Blogger-at-Large I was privileged to meet him while onboard Regatta last fall. Think of all the luxurious fabrics you see on the ship. Gerry is one of three upholsterers onboard responsible for keeping the chairs, draperies and other fabrics shipshape. Having trained with his father who was also an upholsterer, Gerry has been with Oceania Cruises over five years now. He describes the position as a "dream come true."

Marie
Marie was not only immensely patient in helping me with my dining reservations, but also provided exemplary service during our dinners in the Grand Dining Room. 

  Churchill
Churchill is one of the Butlers who cares for guests in Oceania Cruises' Suites. He delivers delicious canapes every afternoon.

DiogoDiogo greeted my husband and me by name each and every day during our recent cruise onboard Marina.

Dr
Affectionately known as Dr. Smitthedge, this gentleman was of utmost assistance with getting the blog posts up while I was onboard.

Anabelle Waje

My friends and I have seen Anabelle in Horizons on several cruises, both for afternoon tea and for the after-dinner disco entertainment. She says her favorite thing about Oceania Cruises is that guests return time and again, so happy to see her on every cruise and addressing her by name just like an old friend. She certainly holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope to see her again very soon!

My sincere thanks to all of the Oceania Cruises team members who have made every moment spent onboard so memorable. I know those guests following the Blog have stories to share of how an Oceania Cruises’ team member made your cruise unforgettable, so please don’t hesitate to post a comment here on the Blog!

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2011

Messages from Marina: FOND MEMORIES OF THE 2011 REUNION CRUISE

  

Veranda Sunset
The sun set all too quickly beyond Marina's decks as the 2011 Reunion Cruise drew to a close, but those of us who traveled on this marvelous journey have returned home with many fond memories. From the romance of Venice to the sun-drenched beaches of the Greek Isles to the fascinating legacy of the ruins of Ephesus, this was a voyage that none of us will soon forget.

OC Cocktail Hosts

As memorable as the ports of call were the many friends we made onboard, both with the wonderful staff and crew and our fellow passengers as well. The Oceania Club Cocktail Party was a celebration of these friendships and of all the loyal guests who sail with Oceania Cruises time and again. Some of the people who made this event such a success are pictured above: General Manager Thierry Tholon, Cruise Director David Shermet, Manager of Loyalty Marketing Nick DeSantis, and Oceania Club Ambassador Matilda Jerosimic.

OC Cocktail Decor

Guests were welcomed to the party with friendly smiles and of course, cocktails!

Captain's Greet
The party was hosted by Captain Dimitrios Flokos, who greeted the arrival of each guest. Captain Flokos hails from Greece and has been with Oceania Cruises since the company's inception.

Captain's Welcome

Jeff Drew Speaks Captain Flokos shared a few words of appreciation for all of Oceania Cruises' loyal guests, and Senior Vice President Jeff Drew also expressed how much we value our Oceania Club members. Nick DeSantis and Matilda Jerosimic introduced the guests who were celebrating their 5th Oceania Cruise and presented these guests with their Bronze milestone pins. We also recognized guests who were sailing on their 6th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th, and even 17th cruises!

 

Blogger and Captain

As the festivities concluded, I was thrilled to be invited to join the Captain and a few other Oceania Cruises team members for a tour of Marina's bridge.

Captain Gives Bridge Tour
Captain Flokos explained the many instruments and gauges on the ship's control panel.

Bridge Instruments
We learned that Marina has two large and two small engines, which generate a total of 48,000 horsepower. This allows her to sail at speeds of up to 22 knots, and it also supplies the electricity for the entire ship. Captain Flokos noted that Marina has more power at her disposal than she should ever need — which is a good thing!
Officers on Bridge
There are two officers and two quartermasters on the bridge at all times. Each works shifts of four hours on and eight hours off.

Spare Anchor

One of the most interesting stories the Captain shared was of the installation of the ship's spare anchor. Pictured above, this all important piece of equipment is required for any ship to sail. The spare anchor was the very last piece to be assembled during Marina's construction, and in fact, it was completed in the late evening on the day that Oceania Cruises was to take delivery of Marina and sail for Barcelona. Captain Flokos and the entire crew were ready to depart, but they could not sail until this last piece was put in place. 

As the anchor was secured and Marina finally pulled away from the dock in Genoa, Oceania Cruises' founder Frank Del Rio noticed that Marina's hull was exceptionally dirty from resting in the dock at the construction site. Therefore the crew had one more task at hand: to give Marina a fresh coat of paint for her arrival in Barcelona!

Captain Flokos smiles now looking back at the challenges that were overcome leading up to Marina's debut. Every extra effort that had to be invested was most certainly worthwhile and only made Marina's immense success all the more rewarding.

Thank you so much to Captain Flokos and to all of the staff and crew onboard Marina for a magnificent and unforgettable Reunion Cruise. As Blogger-at-Large, I so enjoyed the privilege of meeting so many of the crew and other guests onboard, and I hope we cross paths on another voyage with Oceania Cruises in the very near future. 

As each day onboard the Reunion Cruise brought so many new adventures, I still have more stories to share, so continue to check the blog in the days ahead!

May 7, 2011

Messages from Marina: REUNION CRUISE GUESTS ARRIVE IN VENICE

CanalAlong the Adriatic Sea on the coast of northeast Italy lies the city of Venice, floating upon a maze of intricate canals lined by charming cafes, regal cathedrals, and palatial estates once inhabited by a wealthy aristocracy. Vaporettos and water taxis zip along the waterways, while gondolas offer leisurely tours of a city famous for romance. 

Gondolas

In this lovely city I would soon embark on a marvelous journey, the 7th Annual Oceania Club Reunion Cruise onboard the extraordinary new ship Marina. This voyage is a wonderful event for everyone onboard, and is especially exceptional because it features hosted dinners, special excursions, exclusive cocktail parties and other surprises for Oceania Club members. As Oceania Cruises’ Blogger-at-Large, I had been looking forward to this sailing for many months.

My husband and I took advantage of Oceania Cruises’ Pre-Cruise Hotel Program so we could fly in a day early, spend some extra time exploring Venice, relax for a bit and then board Marina refreshed and ready for our adventures. 

 Bruschetta

A priority on our agenda was to indulge in some authentic Italian cuisine. We found a little out-of-the-way café where we shared a delectable bruschetta and caprese salad.

Fish stewReturning to Hotel Saturnia, we stopped into the hotel restaurant, La Caravella. We tried their famous fish stew, which was absolutely exquisite. 

St. Mark's SquareJust a few blocks from our hotel was St. Mark’s Square, where we saw two of Venice’s most famous landmarks, the Basilica di San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. We were planning to revisit the square for a full tour the next day, but we later found out that a more important guest would be visiting – the Pope! The city was bustling with excitement in preparing for the Pope's arrival.

St. Mark’s Square was closed for security reasons, so we were unable to see the inside of these beautiful facades, but we were happy for the excuse to return to Venice again!

Two glass blowersThere were plenty of other interesting things to see and do in this city, such as observing the glass blowers on the island of Murano. The families on this island have been perfecting this art for hundreds of years. We visited the Vetreria Bisanzio Gallery, where the Ballarin family had been blowing glass since 1483. 

Master DemosThe Master showed us how he incorporates mosaic pieces and even gold foil into the glasswork.

 Master Glass BlowerThe process was absolutely amazing to watch. A master glass blower is assisted by several others in a process of constant motion, heating, blowing, and manipulating the glass into elaborate designs. 

Murano Statue
  Murano GlassAfter the demonstration we were given a tour of the studio featuring magnificent chandeliers, beautiful sculptures, fine glassware, and the trademark statuettes of this particular master.

Marina in Venice
We had a fantastic time in Venice, but the excitement was even more palpable when it was finally time to board Marina. As we approached the port in our water taxi, the view of Marina was magnificent. 

Marina Crew
I was joined by Nick DeSantis, Manager of the Oceania Club, and Jeff Drew, Senior Vice President of Sales, who would be hosting this fabulous voyage. We were welcomed by several key staff members who have been responsible for Marina’s flawless performance and who would ensure that the Reunion Cruise was a wonderful success.

Pictured above are: Front row, left to right — Food & Beverage Director Filipe Martins, Chief Purser Michele Gullick, Chief Housekeeper Beata Antas, General Manager Theirry Tholon, Desktop Publisher Jessica Domm, Oceania Club Ambassador Matilda Jerosimic, Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis. Back row, left to right — Cruise Director David Shermet, Destination Services Manager Phil Leech, Executive Concierge Javier Cortes, Senior Vice President of Sales Jeff Drew.

Boat and Hosts

To celebrate the first day of the Reunion Cruise, several guests were invited to a special dinner. Two classic Italian theater characters welcomed my husband and I to the boat that transported us all to one of Venice’s charming little islands.

San Clemente
The dinner was held in a lovely garden setting outside the San Clemente Palace.

Venice dinner group
We dined on eggplant parmigiana and loin of lamb with rosemary potatoes.  The cuisine was delicious, and the pleasant company of the other Oceania Cruises’ guests made for a delightful evening.

We’ve enjoyed a splendid couple of days in Venice, and the Reunion Cruise has only just begun. I look forward to sharing more tales of our adventures as the journey continues!

 

 

 

 

 

May 2, 2011

Post from the President: EXCITING NEWS FROM OCEANIA CRUISES

   


Marina Sculpture
We’re only four months into 2011, and it has Marina Statue Sign already been an exciting year for Oceania Cruises. There isn’t a more thrilling event for a cruise line than the launch of a new ship, and Marina’s debut in January was everything we had hoped for and more. Marina just visited Monte Carlo, and some guests venturing out to the French village of Eze captured this unbelievably appropriate photo. It's as if they stumbled upon the sculpted incarnation of our lovely ship Marina —  elegantly beautiful, "similar yet different" from Oceania Cruises' other ships, and "most certainly unique."

Marina SFHaving had some time to reflect, I am only now realizing how much I learned from the wondrous experience of envisioning and creating a new cruise ship. I’ve always been especially appreciative of the value of two resources – time and personnel. You definitely want both of these working in your favor when undertaking a project of this scope, and realizing our vision for Marina has given me an even deeper appreciation of this truth. Frank Del Rio likes to tell the story of how we only allowed ourselves eight days between taking delivery of the ship in the shipyard and the first guests coming onboard. Note that most cruise lines allow themselves four to five weeks. In fact as we were finishing construction on Marina, a ship for another line was completed, sailed across the Atlantic empty, and then sat in its home port for a few more weeks for final preparations before the first guest boarded.

Meanwhile, in mid-October the shipyard had informed us that they were a bit behind on Marina due to the complex design of her suites. Our eight days were dwindling. When all was said and done, we had 69 hours between taking possession of the ship and the first guest coming onboard in Barcelona. The most amazing part of this story is that Marina and her staff performed flawlessly from day one. I have never been so impressed by the dedication of our Oceania Cruises family as I was when they so seamlessly executed Marina’s inaugural sailing. The entire crew did an absolutely exceptional job, rising to every occasion and meeting every challenge. Thanks to the unfaltering commitment of our staff, we experienced great success despite the time deficit.

Nevertheless, we do plan to allow ourselves a bit more time for preparing Riviera for her first guests. We aren’t gluttons for punishment after all! While we could not be more thrilled with Marina, we have taken numerous lessons from the experience that will make Riviera’s debut an even greater success. I intend to personally invest even more of my time in ensuring that one year from now Riviera will emerge as the spectacular beauty we are all expecting. To allow myself the time so essential for this commitment, I will be assuming the new role of Vice Chairman and working closely with our founder and Chairman Frank Del Rio to assure the continued success of Oceania Cruises’ vision.

This brings me to the latest exciting news in an already exhilarating year for Oceania Cruises. Please join me in offering a warm welcome to the newest member of our Oceania Cruises family, Mr. Bruce Himelstein. Bruce is taking over the role of President of Oceania Cruises, bringing his unbridled enthusiasm and brilliant vision to the helm. He has held senior sales and marketing positions at several of the world’s most respected hospitality companies and was previously senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company during the most ambitious expansion in the brand’s history. Needless to say, we are thrilled to have him onboard.

Bruce is looking forward to getting to know all of our guests both onboard and on the blog, and I’m sure he will be checking in here frequently as he gets settled in. Of course, I can’t wait to start sharing updates on Riviera’s progress, so you will be hearing from me often as well. So far there has not been a dull moment in 2011, and with all the excitement on the horizon for Oceania Cruises, that trend promises to continue!

Welcome Bruce
Team members welcome Bruce to the Oceania Cruises family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 14, 2011

TEA DANSANT: A Spectacular Display of our Pastry Chefs' Talent

Croquenbouche
There are many reasons why a long voyage with Oceania Cruises is an unforgettable experience, and one of those reasons is certainly the opportunity to enjoy Tea Dansant. Of course, High Tea is a longstanding tradition with Oceania Cruises and is served every afternoon on all of our ships. But our longer voyages allow our pastry chefs extra time to flex their creative muscles and indulge their many talents, the result of which is a spectacular (and delicious) display of their artistry. Above is pictured the gorgeous croquenbouche, a delectable tower of profiteroles graced with the chefs’ fine artistic touches. Below Pastry Chef Jose D Silva ensures all is in perfect order before the arrival of the guests.

All Is Ready

Tea Dansant is actually a “tea dance,” and this extravagant tea time also features the orchestra, whose melodies invite guests to the dance floor. Of course, many guests are so distracted by the numerous culinary delights that they don’t quite find the time for dancing. 

O Ice Sculpture
An ice sculpture of the Oceania Cruises logo is created especially for the occasion.

Pastry Tower 2 More towers of exquisite pastries.

Egg Sculpture
The pastry chefs made each egg by hand from caramelized sugar.

Tea Sandwiches
In addition to the confections, there were also numerous tea sandwiches, each one designed as beautifully as the pastries.

Scone Hosts


Scones

No Tea Dansant would be complete without scones with jam and clotted cream.

Tea Box 

And of course, we must have the most essential ingredient – tea!

Filling Teapots
The teapot is equally important.

Table Settings
As are the teacups — fine china befitting such an illustrious occasion.

Tea Champagne
Tea Dansant is such an extraordinary event, many guests choose to complement their tea with a glass of champagne.

Pastry Chef-1
As a special treat, Pastry Chef Jose D Silva showcases his talents. 

Pastry Chef-2
He begins with slabs of caramelized sugar under the light of a heat lamp.

Pastry Chef-3
Guests are able to closely observe his technique.

Pastry Chef-4
The sugar must be at the exact proper temperature in order for Chef to sculpt it. Sometimes he has to place the slabs in the oven behind him for a bit to warm them up, or let them rest on the table to cool them down.

Pastry Chef-5
Stretching the sugar is a very delicate process.

Pastry Chef-6
At this stage one can't imagine what the finished work will look like.

Pastry Chef-7 Chef trims the proper amount for his next piece.

Pastry Chef-8
He continues to work the sugar.

Pastry Chef-9
He will need several colors to create his masterpiece.

Pastry Chef-10
He will even blend these colors together.

Pastry Chef-11
More focused and intense heat is required to create the detail of each tiny piece.

Pastry Chef-12
Now the sculpture is beginning to take shape.

Pastry Chef-13
And voila!

Pastry Chef-14
The finished piece is truly a work of art.

Croquenbouche and Server
Considering the time required to create one of these lovely roses adorning the croquenbouche, you will not be surprised to learn that the Tea Dansant took over 250 man hours prepare.

Thumbs Up
Everyone was thrilled with the results of the chefs’ efforts. Restaurant Manager Vladimir Cavic and Food & Beverage Manager Balazs Fekete agree - the Tea Dansant was a brilliant success. If you have the pleasure of traveling on a longer voyage with Oceania Cruises that features a Tea Dansant, you can see it is experience not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2011

Avid Cruiser Praises Execs Hands-On Approach to Marina

 

Vista Living Room Art
Ralph Grizzle, Editor of Avid Cruiser, recently shared some complimentary remarks about Marina and even caught Bob Binder and Frank Del Rio on video. Check out his post below:

Oceania Cruises Marina: A Personal Work of Art

On Oceania Cruises’ new Marina an unusual scene plays out. Bob Binder, the company’s president, and Frank del Rio, the founder of Oceania Cruises, are performing a job normally reserved for the ship’s carpenters. Dressed in custom-tailored suits, del Rio and Binder heft heavy pieces of framed

Polo Grill Sculpture art, arranging and rearranging, moving one frame of art from a wall in the hallway into a space they’ve chosen in the main restaurant.

Carpenters stand by ready to help, but clearly the cruise executives are in charge. After all, Binder and del Rio chose every piece of art on Marina, and that in itself is telling. Seldom, if ever, will you find executives with such a strong and, literally hands-on, approach. When I remind del Rio that I had seen him a few years earlier measuring spaces on Regatta for art pieces, he replied, “Yeah, we do that all the time,” and then jokes as he is helping Binder place a piece of art on the wall: “They just don’t trust us with a hammer.”

Marina debuted with a big splash in February 2011. The naming ceremony represented a victory for Frank del Rio. In less than a decade, del Rio and his team have built a highly successful cruise line in the upper-premium segment, positioned between premium cruise lines like Holland America, Celebrity and Princess and luxury lines like Silversea, Seabourn and Regent.

As the first ship ever built for the Oceania brand, Marina could be defined as a game-changer. The new ship, however, is something much more than that. Oceania’s Marina is a league-changer, furthering blurring the lines between upper-premium and luxury.

Read the full Avid Cruiser Oceania Cruises Marina Ship Review.

 

 

March 1, 2011

President previews TASTE THE WORLD: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises

  

Franck Signing
Some of my favorite people were signing autographs onboard Marina during her inaugural sailing. As fond as I am of Oceania Cruises' cuisine, you know I must be equally fond of our team of Executive Chefs and Culinary Directors who have made our dream of serving the finest cuisine at sea a reality. I never cease to be amazed and impressed by the creations that emerge from the galleys, where numerous chefs, sous chefs and prep cooks continuously strive to ensure each recipe is executed flawlessly. It is a fascinating process, from the initial concept of an entrée in the creative mind of a chef to the final realization of the chef's vision.

Taste the World
In fact, we found the process to be so intriguing, the passion of our culinary team to be so astounding, and the results to be so spectacular, we wanted to share the story of Oceania Cruises' culinary program with the world. Thus was conceived the idea for a book that, while it would contain a wealth of recipes, would be so much more than a cookbook. We envisioned a culinary lifestyle book that would illustrate the depth of our passion for cuisine and how it is such an integral part of the Oceania Cruises experience. And this vision has become a reality, as Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises will soon be for sale on amazon.com.

Susie Signing Jacques Signing

I may be biased, but I think you'll agree if you check it out that the book is truly beautiful. It was produced by Susie Heller (above left), the Emmy-winning television producer and coauthor of several award-winning cookbooks, including Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook. Deborah Jones did the stunning photography. She has worked with Susie Heller on many of her famous books and has likewise been honored with awards from many different groups including the James Beard Foundation. I swear you feel like you can taste the pages, each shot is so vivid. We were thrilled to have both of them as part of our team.

Our Executive Culinary Director, the esteemed Master Chef Jacques Pépin (above right), was heavily involved in bringing the book to life, contributing not only the foreword of the book and many of his own personal recipes, but also the inspiration for our entire culinary program. He has always been such an essential part of our success and one of the driving forces behind the zeal that all of our chefs bring to the table. And of course, our extraordinary team of Executive Chefs and Culinary Directors crafted this project every step of the way, sharing their own family recipes, their personal stories, and their heartfelt commitment to creating the finest cuisine. 

Wolfgang Maier

The book actually takes you through a full 24-hour day onboard, so you can see exactly how much passion is behind the process. The galleys never close. Any given minute of any given day, there are chefs preparing for the next meal. You observe Corporate Pastry Chef Olivier Simon overseeing the preparation of croissants at 3:00 a.m., using only the finest Planchot flour imported from France. Later Corporate Executive Chef Wolfgang Maier (pictured in the Curtis Hustace photo above) coaches the team on how to sauté the perfect Wiener Schnitzel. Having grown up in Austria, the dish is a matter of personal and national pride for him. It is his recipe, as his family had it nearly every Sunday for lunch, and he ensures it is done exactly right from the initial seasonings to the breading to the sauté pan. The resulting delicate, crisp, beautifully puffed golden cutlet is a thing to behold.

If you experience this book, you'll know that the secret ingredient to Oceania Cruises' cuisine is the heart and soul of every chef onboard. Which brings me back to the autograph signing. Guests onboard Marina recently got a sneak peak at Taste the World, and those featured in the book autographed the pages where their delicious recipes and fascinating stories appeared.

Chefs at Book Signing
Back row L to R: Executive Chef Tino Daab, Producer Susie Heller, Master Chef Jacques Pépin, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger. Front row L to R: Corporate Pastry Chef Olivier Simon, Corporate Executive Chef Wolfgang Maier, Culinary Director Eric Barale.

It was a fantastic event, and we are thrilled with the results of the hard work and immense dedication of these great culinary minds. You can bet I'll be sharing more photos of their creations here on the blog soon!

Before signing off, I wanted to mention that, as you might imagine, I am an avid reader and ardent fan of Cruise Critic. Today I happened to notice that Marina showed up in their Daily Poll, which asks you to vote for the best new cruise ship. I don't need to tell you how I voted. If you feel as I do that Marina is by far the best new cruise ship out there, please feel free to vote for her in the Cruise Critic Daily Poll.  And as always, thank you so much to all of our loyal guests, fans, and followers.

 

 

February 21, 2011

PRESIDENT BINDER'S UPDATE FROM MEXICO ONBOARD MARINA

  

Las Brisas
Onboard Marina we've spent the last several days exploring the western coasts of Mexico, and each town seems more lovely than the last.  On Friday I enjoyed lunch at El Bellavista restaurant at Las Brisas resort in Acapulco, a restaurant aptly named for its beautiful view. I had a delicious tortilla soup and queso fundito - Mexican fondue with rock shrimp. Yesterday we were in Cabo San Lucas, sailing past the striking rock formations and sandy beaches along Land's End.

Cabo

All has been smooth sailing, except for one minor snag, literally. A few days ago a fishing net got tangled in one of Marina's propellers, causing us to miss the port of Huatulco. But the weather is so spectacular and the seas so smooth, guests hardly seemed to notice.

Meanwhile, those of us not technically on vacation are getting some work done. The 2:00 a.m. photo shoots continue. While the guests are sleeping, our cast and crew are capturing Marina on film.

Photo Shoot GDR

And you know I won't leave you without sharing the latest from Marina's culinary scene. As is always the case in any fine restaurant, our chefs are constantly experimenting with new dishes, exploring new flavor combinations, creating new features to amaze our guests. Below you see the Homard Thermidor from Jacques, our Maine lobster baked in shell, for which the chefs have created a mustard mushroom cream sauce. 

Lobster Thermidor

And the Coquilles Saint-Jacques aux Morilles - sauteed scallops over fondant potatoes with morel sauce.

Scallops Jacques
Of course, our chefs are quite proud of their creations, and they want me to taste each one, so I indulge them. I can assure you that I will never be guilty of stifling the creativity of our chefs!

I had better get back to work, but I will of course continue to share all the news from Marina, and you can expect some updates from our other ships soon as well. 

February 16, 2011

THE EXQUISITE DESIGN OF OCEANIA CRUISES' MARINA

    

Marina Metal Art
It's been said many times already, but as Blogger at Large, please allow me to repeat it once more: Photographs simply can't do justice to Marina. You have to be onboard to truly comprehend the full extent of her splendor. On Marina's Christening Cruise, I realized the truth of this time and again as I would take a photo, look at the result, and be sadly disappointed at my failure to capture her exquisite detail.

Having said that, words are my primary occupation, and I am at best an amateur photographer, so there is a flip side to this coin. For the professional or the aspiring novice, the breadth of detail encompassed in Marina's stunning design is nothing short of a photographer's paradise. And while it may not be possible to capture the actual experience of sailing on Marina, a gifted photographer has infinite opportunities to create brilliant interpretations of Marina's beauty. The photo above is a perfect example and also an illustration of why photographer Curtis Hustace is currently onboard Marina leading photo workshops for guests at the Artist Loft.

So Marina is at once beauty beyond capture and beauty that demands capturing, as is perhaps the goal of any artistic design. (You will most likely be struck by the former in photos of mine that follow and the latter in photos from Curtis.)

Any discussion of Marina's design immediately brings to mind Dakota Jackson, the visionary behind Marina's Oceania and Vista Suites. The talented touch of this famed designer is evident in these suites everywhere you turn. Below are some shots of one of the Oceania Suites.

Oceania Suite Chair

Oceania Suite Living Room
Oceania Suite Bath-2

Mr. Jackson was onboard for the Christening Cruise, and I had the privilege of meeting him during my tour of the Oceania Suite. 

Blogger and Jackson

Jackson says, "The furniture has to be beautiful, it has to be provocative, it has to be meaningful."  I can attest that these suites are all of that and so much more.  And it's worth noting that every space is not only strikingly elegant, but also immensely comfortable, as illustrated below by Oceania Cruises' senior vice president of marketing, James Rodriguez, taking a moment to lounge in the cozy Entertainment Room. 

James on Couch

You will most definitely want to host friends in a suite this spectacular, so even the ensuite wet bar has been designed to impress.

Oceania Suite Bar

There are thousands more examples of Marina's stunning design to be discovered, and if you wish to develop the skills to capture this beauty on film, you can do so in the Artist Loft. And let's not forget that Marina's exquisite design goes even beyond the bounds of her hull, for ultimately, her entire design has been conceived as a vessel to explore the most alluring ports of call the world over. While one could spend days on end just enjoying the amenities and activities onboard Marina, she is meanwhile sailing to exotic destinations that also demand exploration. 

Yesterday Marina called on Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and Curtis Hustace led his Artist Loft class on an excursion to discover the art and design of this lovely city on the Pacific Coast. Below are some of the impressive images he captured during the group's experience.

White Faced Monkey Costa Rica

Costa Rican Flower

Costa Rican Pigeon - Green Parrot

Of course, a group from the Artist Loft could not visit Costa Rica without seeing one of the famed oxcart factories where local artists create some of Costa Rica's most splendid designs. 

Ox Cart Artisan

Ox Cart Painter 2

A local sculptor was also kind enough to invite the Artist Loft group into his shop to observe his technique. It was the first time he had been observed by tourists.

Costa Rican Sculpture

The artistic excursion culminated in a lunch hosted at a local Costa Rican home.

Lunch at Costa Rican Home

You can see that for anyone interested interior design, exquisite architecture, natural beauty, or artistic exploration in general, a voyage onboard Marina is a must. When attempting to convey the beauty of the ship or the stories of your journeys ashore, you may or may not achieve your desired results, but the process is always a joy - even just capturing the view of a Costa Rican sunset from your veranda. I hope you have the opportunity to sail onboard Marina soon. 

Costa Rican Sunset


 

February 11, 2011

THE EXCITEMENT ONBOARD MARINA CONTINUES!

     

Bob, Chefs

Whew! What a week it has been here onboard Marina! I've hardly had a moment to check in on the blog, so I thought it was time for an update. If you saw the post by our Blogger at Large on the Christening Cruise, you know that last weekend was an exciting and emotional event for all of us. You may not know that on the final night of that cruise, we celebrated with a grand performance by Willy Chirino. And Frank Del Rio may not know that I caught a couple of photos of him, his wife Marcia, and their grandkids dancing the night away. Frank was also thrilled to be invited to the stage to sing a few lines with Chirino!

Frank Dancing

Frank and Willie

The festivities ended all too soon - but just in time for more festivities to begin. Our guests disembarked the Christening Cruise on Tuesday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon more guests had embarked for the Inaugural Passage through the Panama Canal. It is amazing to watch the staff and crew ready the ship for the next cruise in just a few short hours. Before we knew it, it was time for the Sailaway Party as Marina departed for Cartagena, Colombia.

Inaugural Sail Champagne

Inaugural Sail Away

You may think that I will now have a chance to relax and take some time to enjoy all of our successes with Marina. But the work continues. While Marina is elegant, stunning and a whole other list of superlatives, Frank and I will settle for nothing short of perfection. For instance, yesterday we were raising the Buddha heads in Red Ginger so they would be more prominently displayed.

Raising Buddha

The other day Frank was walking down the stairs from his stateroom and suddenly stopped in his tracks. He pointed out the center post of the stair railing to myself and a couple other staff members that were nearby. The post and railing were painted black with some simple scrollwork, and Frank said, "That's not good enough." He decided a Moroccan silver overlay perhaps would improve the stair railing's appearance. It's all in the details!

Meanwhile, we also have film crews, models, editors, and a host of other Oceania Cruises team members onboard to film and photograph shots of Marina. One of our Owner's Suites has been taken over by crew members capturing Marina's beauty from every angle.

Working at Owner's Bar


Elise in Mirror

Editing on Bar

One of our butlers gets a touch up before going in front of the camera.

Delinting Butler

Butler Video Video

Chef awaits his big moment.

Chef on Set

Speaking of chefs, I haven't mentioned our cuisine lately, but it continues to impress. I had to share a photo of this beautiful brioche.

Brioche

And below is the spinach and goat cheese salad I had in Toscana last night.

Toscana Goat Cheese Salad
I had to make up for my morning during which I had my usual chocolate croissant, however a guest showed me how to make it even better. I now slather it in peanut butter.

No matter how hard we may be working, we certainly continue to eat well! 

 

 

February 9, 2011

GODMOTHER MARY HART CHRISTENS MARINA AT A GALA EVENT IN THE PORT OF MIAMI!

    

The mood was festive and jubilant in the port of Miami this weekend as Marina was officially christened by Godmother Mary Hart. The excitement was palpable at this joyous celebration.

The planning of the gala event began over a year ago, and a frenzy of preparations ensued even before Marina arrived in port. An enormous screen was erected on which all of the festivities were broadcast live, so that every guest had an excellent view. 
Chairs and Screen

 

The stage was set up to the forward starboard side of Marina.

Stage

  Setup w:Marina

 

Two crew members hoisted the bejeweled lever to the stage. 

Loading Lever

 

This sparkling lever would soon release the champagne bottle that would christen the ship.

Lever Close

 

The nebuchadnezzar of champagne was custom designed for the occasion by Armand de Brignac.

The Bottle

 

Of course, there were also cases of fine champagne for the guests to enjoy.

Loading Champagne

 

And hundreds of glasses in which to serve it.

Unpacking Glasses

 

Pedestals were placed around the staging area where musicians would perform. Two gentlemen perched precariously to install the decor atop the pedestal to the right of the curtained entrance where guests would be welcomed.

Ladder Decor

 

Oceania Cruises team members were eager to welcome the guests' arrival.

Welcome Wagon

 

Photographers stood ready to capture every moment of the grand event.

Photographers

 

As Blogger at Large, I was privileged to have my photograph taken with the Violin Divas, who provided some of the evening's entertainment.  Guess which one is me.

Violin Divas

 

One of the beautiful Violin Divas aloft on her pedestal.

Diva on Pedestal

 

The white-gloved staff prepared to greet guests with champagne.

Champagne Welcome

 

The stage was set, the lights were up, and everyone was in position. It was finally time for the guests to disembark Marina and let the celebration begin!

Guests Arrive

 

Oceania Cruises Senior Director of Marketing Jim Lida, Senior VP of Marketing James Rodriguez, and guest Camilo Montecillo.
Jim and James

 

The crowd grew quickly as enthusiastic guests filled the seats.
Crowd 1

Crowd 2

Manager of Loyalty Marketing Nick DeSantis with Captain and Mrs. Flokos.

Nick, Captain, Mrs

 

Stylish and stunning, Godmother Mary Hart made a grand entrance with President Bob Binder.

Mary and Bob

 

Ms. Hart returned the warm greetings of the crowd.

Mary Greeting

Flamenco Guitarist Alex Fox kicked off the entertainment, serenading Master Chef Jacques Pépin, President Bob Binder, Godmother Mary Hart, and an enthralled audience of hundreds.

Fox Serenade

Marina Cruise Director Leslie Jon was Master of Ceremonies.

Leslie John

The Miami Color Guard stood at attention as Dee Dee Wilde sang the National Anthem.

Color Guard

Dee Dee Wilde

It was now time for President Bob Binder to take the stage. "We would not be here today," he said, "if it were not for the vision of Frank Del Rio. Frank more than anyone else has really driven us to be the best, and his passion and all of his dreams have come to life today in the form of this extraordinary ship.

"I've known Frank 18 years, and there's never been a dull moment," Bob quipped. "Sometimes maybe I could've used a dull moment or two."

President Binder had high praise for all of the Oceania Cruises team members, their shareholders, and their travel agent partners, without whom the dream of Marina would never have been possible. "When we started the company, many people said that we were crazy, but we didn't think so. Our shareholders didn't think we were crazy. Our travel agent partners didn't think we were crazy, and that's why they got behind this great product. And here we are today, and I have to say, I think things worked out pretty well."
Bob Speaks

Steve Martinez of Apollo Management remarked, "Some people will say that money built this ship. Money is the commodity. The foundation of this ship is the vision and the passion of a group of very, very special people. As I stand here today, I can honestly say, Frank and team, I am humbled by what you have created. And I am grateful and thankful that I have been a part of it. And I am excited about the many successes that lie in our future."

Mr. Martinez then welcomed to the stage Chairman and CEO, Frank Del Rio. Frank's remarks were both heartfelt and inspiring. "In the summer of 1998," he said, "I was in...France at a cruise ship naming ceremony much like today's. After the ceremony, my son Frank Jr., who was 20 years old at the time, and knowing the professional trials and tribulations I was going through at the time, took me aside and said, 'Dad, we need to start a cruise line of our own with a new ship.' I remember turning to him as any father would in those circumstances and saying to him with conviction, 'Son, I promise, someday we will.'"

Mr. Del Rio then stepped out from behind the podium, gestured to his son, and with a sweep of his hand toward Marina proclaimed, "At last!"


Frank Speaks

Frank continued, "The saying goes, 'Good things come to those who wait,' and although Marina's arrival has indeed been long awaited, she's more than just good. She is the most beautiful, sophisticated, stylish, elegant ship launched in the modern era of cruising, a span of some fifty years.

"Just eight years ago Oceania was a start-up cruise line in an industry dominated by two titans. Not many gave us a chance to survive, much less succeed, but we persevered and we triumphed. We triumphed because we had a clear vision, an exact plan, the desire and will to execute flawlessly, and most important, a group of men and women who sought excellence and refused to falter...I never tire of thanking them and acknowledging them for their herculean achievement."

Marina Captain Dimitrios Flokos then took the stage to introduce the Senior Officers and a parade of the staff and crew members that are so essential to the success of Marina and of Oceania Cruises.
Captain Speaks
Staff 1

  Staff 2

The blessing was given, and then it was time for Mary Hart to speak. Ms. Hart is not only a beloved television personality, but also a woman with a longstanding personal commitment to bettering the lives of children, serving on the Board of Directors for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, as a Telethon Cohost for the Children's Miracle Network, and as an Ambassador for Child Help USA. After 29 years at Entertainment Tonight, this will be Ms. Hart's final season, and everyone at Oceania Cruises is thrilled that she is taking on a new role as Marina's Godmother.

Ms. Hart was exceptionally impressed with the ship and deeply honored to be named Godmother. "Walking onboard Marina today...when I got to the very first step onboard, walked in and came down that staircase and started to meet the staff and the crew, I was so touched. I could tell right there, that is the best test of quality of the ship, because the personnel, everybody is so kind, so welcoming, so in love with this ship and so proud that it made me feel proud to be her godmother too."

Ms. Hart expressed thoughts that were on the minds of many guests as they gazed upon Marina. "I am thrilled to be here. She's incomparably beautiful...For everybody going on this and future cruises, you are in for the time of your life."

Mary Speaks

The time for the grand finale had arrived. The drum roll sounded, and Marina was officially christened with the crashing of the enormous champagne bottle against her hull. Double click the image below to view a video of this extraordinary moment.

Mr. Del Rio threw his arms in the air in celebration, and he, Mr. Binder, and Ms. Hart enjoyed a congratulatory hug.

Hooray
Group Hug

Mr. and Mrs. Del Rio toasted Marina's success.
Frank and Mrs

The grandchildren joined the stage, and the real celebration began, led by the Marina Choir.
Celebrate

  Dancing

Celebration Song

Mr. Del Rio, Ms. Hart, and the hundreds of other people in attendance continued to celebrate into the evening, toasting the extraordinary success of the Christening Ceremony, of Marina, and of Oceania Cruises. It was a grand affair befitting the elegance and beauty of the stunning new Marina.

Frank and Mary

 

February 5, 2011

MARINA ARRIVES IN MIAMI!!

    

Marina and Flag

Nick DeSantis woke up at 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning. “I tossed and turned all night, and so finally I just decided to get up. I was so excited for Marina’s arrival I couldn’t sleep!”

Nick, Manager of Loyalty Marketing for Oceania Cruises, arrived at the office early yesterday morning, as did many other Oceania Cruises team members who were eager to greet Marina as she arrived in Miami. A bus departed the Miami offices at 8:00 a.m. to transport a group to Smith and Wollensky restaurant on Miami Beach where they joined other staff ready to welcome Marina’s arrival. Over 100 team members rose in the wee hours of the morning so they could be at the port for this momentous occasion.

Marina Welcome Sign 

The signs were everywhere – on tshirts, on flags, and in the letters spelled out on huge cards in sports fan fashion – and they all said the same thing: Welcome Marina. She sailed into port just as the sun crested the horizon.

Marina with Spray 
Senior VP of Marketing James Rodriguez admitted to tearing up a bit as Marina sailed into the harbor. “Marina is the culmination of years of hard work. It’s a bit overwhelming to see her come to life with even more grace and beauty than we could have imagined.”

James Flag 

James wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes. One imagines there are few if any other cruise lines whose employees would come out at sunrise to welcome their new ship in such an emotional and heartfelt celebration. It was certainly a morning to remember.

MarinaWelcome web 

Marina’s arrival in the port of Miami was just the first of many grand events that will take place over the next few days. Last night all of the Oceania Cruises team members were welcomed onboard for a party to celebrate Marina’s success. The atmosphere was jubilant as everyone enjoyed the beautiful ship, and every team member in attendance had a hand in making the vision of Marina a reality.

Employee Party 

 

One of the most special moments of the evening was the announcement of the Employee of the Year Awards for Oceania Cruises, her sister line Regent Seven Seas cruises, and their parent company Prestige Cruise Holdings.

Employees of the Year 

Oceania Cruises' Employee of the Year Dayami Lazo and Regent Seven Seas' Dawn Argo receive their congratulations.

David and Vicki 

David William Kelly has recruited Prestige Employee of the Year Vicki Diez to work in Vessel Operations.

The festivities continue today, as Marina will be christened this afternoon by her godmother, Mary Hart, with all the proper fanfare one would expect of such a momentous occasion. Ms. Hart was onboard this afternoon filming a segment for Entertainment Tonight.

Mary Hart Filming Far 

Mary Hart Filming Close 

The Christening Ceremony promises to be a grand occasion, to be followed by a sail away party as Marina departs for Nassau on her three-day Christening Cruise. There will be a gala dinner this evening and continued celebration throughout the night. Be sure to check the blog for more news and photos of all the exciting events.

 

 

 

 

January 27, 2011

A SNEAK PEEK OF A DIFFERENT SORT...RIVIERA!

    

Riviera 1

I admit this photo is a bit shocking after all the ones we've seen of Marina in her finished, polished state of elegance and beauty. But our EVP of Vessel Operations, Robin Lindsay, is in Naples today and shared these photos of Riviera in progress, and I thought it an apt time to remind everyone that we have another new ship in the works as well. Just think, we get to relive all of this excitement in 2012 when Riviera sails on her Maiden Voyage!

Riviera is being built in a slightly different fashion than her elder sister. Whereas Marina was constructed in one building dock over a period of three years, Riviera is being built concurrently in large sections around Italy. These sections will then be towed to Genoa where they will be joined together, and she will be finished by the same craftsmen that outfitted Marina. I have certainly learned a lot about the day-to-day process of shipbuilding over the last few years!

Riviera 2

Riviera 3

Riviera 4

I can't leave you without a few more pictures of lovely Marina. Below is a photo of the Grand Bar seating and one of Horizons set for High Tea.

Grand Bar Seating (Medium)

Horizons Tea

Below is another great shot of the pool. And have I mentioned that Marina has an 18-hole golf putting course?

Pool-2

Golf-2

The seas were a bit rough this afternoon, but the Grand Dining Room was full of guests enjoying their lunch. We appear to have a lot of experienced cruisers onboard, because few have batted an eyelash when the weather has refused to cooperate. Or perhaps like me, they are so excited about exploring Marina, there is little time to notice any rolling waves. 

We are told to expect sunnier skies ahead, which is no surprise because today I must disembark the ship for a week. Just my luck. But I will return for Marina's christening and her Inaugural Passage and continue to share my photos, thoughts, and insights with you here on the blog. In the meantime, we do have three other wonderful ships sailing the seas, so check back for more updates!

January 24, 2011

MARINA SAILS! ...and sails....and sails!

    

Hustace Photo-1-Barcelona Pano
We've said "bon voyage" to Barcelona, and what an eventful couple of days it has been! It is such a thrill for Frank and I to welcome all of our guests onboard and to get to talk with so many of you. After sharing so much on the blog and hearing all of your comments, it has been wonderful to meet so many of you in person and experience Marina together. Below is a shot of lovely Marina in port in Barcelona before sailing on the Maiden Voyage.

Marina-Barcelona Port

And a spectacular shot of Marina at night.

Hustace Photo-12-Upper Deck Night
Apparently Marina is fond of the seas, because she has decided to enjoy another sea day! Inclement weather prevented us from calling at Malaga today, so as an alternative we tried for Gibraltar. But that did not work out because they closed the port, so we are off to Morocco. Frank and Marcia Del Rio were supposed to disembark today in Malaga, but instead they will be sailing on with us to Casablanca. So much for my taking some time off when Frank wasn't around!

Despite the rough seas, Marina is handling them very well. Mother Nature can cause some challenges though, so we are staying on our toes. Tonight will be the premier one of our new shows - Con Molto. We were supposed to do River Rhapsody, but those costumes are still in Malaga.

This afternoon's Chocolate Decadence class in the Bon Appetit Culinary Center should be a sweet spot on a sour day! As we suspected it would be, every day is a new adventure onboard Marina. 

Hustace Photo-9-Grand Staircase

You may have noticed that the quality of today's photos is quite impressive. No, my photography skills have not improved that much, but it appears that they would if I took classes onboard at the Artist Loft from Curtis Hustace, our Photo Coach. He captured today's photos, and we thank him so much for sharing!  We can't wait to learn from your expertise.

Hustace Photo-7-Vase

Hustace Photo-8-Terrace Chandelier

The first rave reviews are also coming in. Below I've shared some comments from David on the Cruise Critic message boards. It's his first voyage with Oceania Cruises, and if his impressions are any indication, we're meeting with great success! The links to the Cruise Critic pages are also included below if you'd like to read more:

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
It is beautiful.

It is more than you can imagine.

It is Marina….and before I’ve even had my first night on board, I can tell you that you will want to be onboard. 

Work is still being done….minor things and only to be expected.

First Impressions:

1. The public spaces are more grand and beautiful than any picture you’ve seen so far.
2. Even the carpet is more plush..every step is cushioned.
3. Staff is very friendly, but do not seem harried.
4. Everything is designed with an emphasis on home or perhaps an upscale boutique hotel.
5. The penthouse rooms are VERY nice…if you need more space than that, please feel free to donate to me!
6. Our balcony room is quite adequate. Slightly smaller than the R & S class balcony rooms on Holland.
7. The gel bed feels fantastic and you literally sink in slowly to a comfortable level.
8. They have crammed a lot into a little space.
9. Jacques and Red Ginger standout in terms of design..the designers did a great job creating great atmosphere there.
10. Small touches like soft close drawers are quite nice. In other words, there is a “cushion” feel to closing them.
11. Horizon’s lounge is REALLY nice. The smoking area is glassed off and to the port side. It’s a very expansive space.
12. The library is BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, beautiful. My wife will get lost in there.
13. Lunch service was paced well and very fresh in taste and appearance. Dishes everywhere are gorgeous.

Okay..I’ll be sending some photos of menus, etc. along the way (don’t want to show you EVERYTHING on the first day  I have to have some reason for you to come back to read more!

First shocker: house wines and spirits…FREE this first cruise for those who enjoy such a thing. Even mixed drinks, etc.

We are promised more surprises as we go along.

Dinner was great. The Grand Dining room at night was like gold spun butter poured into a crystal mould. There were bites of steamed dumplings, shrimp, wonderful salads and great entrees. Our favorite was definitely the Veal Oscar. We arrived at 630pm before the pre-dinner drinkers arrived (i.e. noisy/loud). I caught a glance of FDR patrolling the dining room.

I’ll post a few pics each day. I’ll certainly try to keep the menus coming!

In summary, this is a ship for adults with all the trappings of someone’s home. Even in public spaces we were met very few people and nothing seemed crowded.

Marie in the dining room was efficient, Anton the sommelier was quite engaging..and Mia and Dannielle from the entertainment staff were so so friendly.

Tomorrow, the menu at Waves grill looks GREAT…and I’m at the Bon Appetit culinary center in the afternoon.

Toscana for dinner tomorrow night.

By the way, they were handing out extra specialty dining venue reservations this afternoon on a first come first serve basis. 

We were delayed on our sail away for a few moments(didn’t bother us) as they were looking for a few folks…all were found.

In summary, if you haven’t booked your Marina trip, do it now! I can safely say that based on the first day experience. I look forward to more reports as we go.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1339111&page=4

 

Daddy Sang Bass, Mamma Sang Tenor

Me and little brother just joined right in!

I finally got it last night. I got the fascination with O.

Prior to dinner time last night, the ship hosted a special toast to the maiden voyage. Several venues were full of merry makers as staff were moved in to the area to deliver wine, champagne, mimosas, and rum punch drinks. Additional staff flooded, and I mean flooded, the area with hot and cold bites. The puff pastries with warm, melted cheese were my favorite. 

They were coming around at an average of one every 90 seconds to offer bites. I’ve been on other lines and have not been nearly so impressed with the service when it was time to do something like this. O made sure everyone was taken care of in this respect. I do not know if this is standard on most voyages or just because of the nature of this one.

Dinner was in Toscana. I have taken several pictures of the different dishes we ordered and will post them soon enough. I am not one to give away everything  So you won’t see all of them.

The waiter was appropriately from Italy. We liked the olive oil and balsamic vinegar choices..but it would have been nice to have had a menu, much like the dessert menu, to be able to read/see the descriptions. This would have been especially true of the olive oils. That being said, lemon, chili, rosemary, garlic, basil, were just some of the flavors.

ALL of the dishes were good, but if you are looking for room in the cavern called your stomach, you might want to skip the salads.

Some of the favorites: the eggplant stuffed with veal, the Trio Toscana and the Veal Marsala.

I need to clarify another issue. It is more than just Mr. Binder and Del Rio taking care of business. There are obviously engineers and the man responsible for the ship building running around. They are ALL working hard and attending to details. However, to the untrained eye, I haven’t the foggiest notion what those might be. If I didn’t know any better, Riviera, is probably getting a few adjustments planned because of this sailing.

Now, I started this post with an interesting observation. Daddy Sang Bass & Momma sang tenor. I believe I now get it. I know why Oceania doesn’t want to be a luxury line. Luxury implies self indulgent opulence. Premium means one places a high value on something. From the design of the ship to the nature of the approach to dining and spaces, this is all about family. The ship is meant to be home, not a resort. You don’t spend all day at your home trying to 1000 activities. In fact, especially from a man’s perspective, home is where you relax and have peace/calm.

I’m sure 90% or more of the passengers are repeat O cruisers. If I didn’t know any better, they are here to support Oceania! That’s what family does. They help each other during birth pangs and departures, through graduations, and moves to bigger houses.

Thus, Daddy does sing bass here and mamma does sing tenor. Because in the familiar words of the Johnny Cash tune, the circle won’t be broken. 
Thus, I think that is the real reason we refer to the line as “O”.

David C
__________________

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1339111&page=6

Hustace Photo-11-Pool Night
Thank you again to Curtis for the fabulous photos and to David for sharing his experiences on Cruise Critic. And of course, I will continue to keep you posted here on the blog as Marina's Maiden Voyage continues!

January 21, 2011

MARINA'S OWNER'S SUITES: The Best at Sea

    

Yes, I know I've already posted today's final countdown, but I had to share two more photos. And yes, I know claiming that Marina's Owner's Suites are the best at sea is a bold statement, but take a look at the photos below and see if you agree. I thought the artist's renderings created when we designed the Owner's Suites were fantastic, but these suites are more impressive than I could have imagined.

I'm beginning to sound like a proud papa boasting about his child, so I'll stop and let the photos speak for themselves.

Owner's Suite Foyer

The Foyer

Owner's Suite Living Room
The Living Room

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 0 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

    

Glowing O-2

We are now just hours away from welcoming our guests onboard for Marina's Maiden Voyage. I cannot wait to see all of your reactions when you see Marina for the first time. Of course, if you've been following the blog, you have some idea of what's in store for you, but even the most stunning photos can't do justice to Marina's beauty. You really have to see her for yourself.

I will be onboard welcoming guests and meeting and mingling with as many of you as possible tomorrow. I'll sail with Marina as far as the Canary Islands, when sadly, I will have to depart and attend to other Oceania Cruises business. But with all of my amazing experiences onboard Marina, January 2011 is a month that I will not soon forget.

I still have SO many photos to share. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to post them all. So many of our classic spaces you still haven't seen...

The Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase-Wide Grand Staircase-Detail


Martinis

Martinis-2Martinis

Terrace Cafe

Bob in Terrace Terrace Cafe

And I know at least one of you out there has been waiting ever so patiently for photos of the pool.

Pool-1 Pool-4-Above

Considering how much I've touted all of the new restaurants, it seems appropriate to also share one more menu with you before the Maiden Voyage sets sail.  One of our guests requested a peek at the Red Ginger menu, so I've posted it below.  Also, another guest inquired about the webcam onboard, which unfortunately will not be operational for the Maiden Voyage, but we will get it posted as soon as it's up and running!

RGP1

RGP2

RGP3a

RGP4

RGP5

Some guests commented that they are in Barcelona awaiting our arrival and feel like children on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. Perhaps I'm Santa in that scenario, but I certainly feel more like the children, as I can't remember having been so excited for a day to arrive in a long time. Tomorrow promises to be a grand finale to the countdown, and yet it is really just the beginning of the experience onboard Marina for all of our guests. I will do my best to share some photos of the festivities if I can catch my breath!