60 posts categorized " Food & Wine "

November 10, 2014

Sneak Preview: Celebrity Guest Chefs in 2015

Oceania Cruises BlogImagine sailing to fascinating destinations like Auckland and Cape Town, dining on fresh, local cuisine paired with delicious wine and then returning aboard to mingle with talented celebrity chefs, witness them in action and sample their signature dishes. In just a few short months many of you will embark on our inaugural Around the World in 180 Days voyage in January. Matching the global nature of this journey, several exciting international celebrity chefs will be featured throughout this world cruise.

As a part of this special program, cooking demonstrations and Q&A sessions, as well as other exclusive events will highlight these internationally-renowned chefs. In addition, the Grand Dining Room will spotlight a special signature dish by each celebrity chef. Below is a sneak preview of just a few of the many talented guest chefs joining us on this journey. These chefs will be featured on the particular segments of the Around the World voyage as noted below.

Oceania Cruises BlogIan Pengelley | Renowned chef Ian Pengelley started out in the hospitality industry at just 16 years old as a kitchen porter in a Northamptonshire country club. Four years later, Pengelley relocated to Hong Kong, and discovered his passion for Asian food and culture, which eventually came to shape his illustrious career. He went on to train in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China before returning home. Pengelley’s talents are most noted as the launch Head Chef of E&O, Notting Hill in 2001 and as the Executive Chef of critically-acclaimed Gilgamesh for eight years. He has appeared on a number of popular cooking shows, including “Celebrity MasterChef.”

 Chef Pengelley will be featured during Insignia’s Coral Seas & Pacific Havens, Stars of the Pacific and Pacific Sojourn voyages.

Sneak Preview: Celebrity Guest Chefs in 2015Olivier Desaintmartin |  Chef-owner of the celebrated French bistro Caribou Café, Olivier Desaintmartin was born in Champagne, and focuses his culinary expertise on creating dishes inspired by the hearty comfort food from his childhood. His elegant and simple dishes, such as Salade Niçoise, Steak Tartare, Quiche, Boeuf Bourguignon and Cassolette de Champignons, reflect the many regions of France. Desaintmartin has apprenticed with world-renowned chefs such as Michel Guérard, Jacques Chibois, Gaston Lenôtre and Gilbert Le Coze. He was also a champion on Food Network’s “Chopped.”

Chef Desaintmartin will be featured during Insignia’s Pacific Crossing voyage.

Jean Louis Dumonet | Executive Chef of The Union Club in New York and President of Les Maitres Cuisinier du France, Jean Louis Dumonet has established himself on both sides of the Atlantic as one of France’s preeminent culinary talents. Growing up in a family of restaurateurs in Paris sparked an early introduction into the culinary world, and Dumonet began cooking at the young age of 14. He has since had the opportunity to explore and develop his mastery at distinguished restaurants throughout the world, including at his  own Trois Jean Bistro, which was regularly acclaimed as “New York City’s best bistro.”

10557470_10152377926133725_1908591896787460009_nChef Dumonet will be featured during Insignia’s Polynesian Treasures voyage.

Stay tuned for more exciting details and updates as we draw closer to the Around the World voyage departure date!

August 5, 2014

JACQUES PEPIN'S SIGNATURE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN RECIPE

Guests on board Marina enjoyed culinary demonstrations, special shore excursions and more on the annual cruise hosted by legendary master chef Jacques Pépin. As executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, Pépin has led our team of talented chefs in crafting the exquisite cuisine for which we are renowned.

IMG_7765 - Version 2In the Grand Dining Room, Pépin’s signature rotisserie chicken has always been a cornerstone of the nightly menu. This French classic is also served in Pépin’s namesake restaurant, Jacques, on board Marina and Riviera, where you can watch the herb-crusted chicken roast to succulent perfection on the gleaming display rotisserie.

In celebration of the recent Jacques Pépin Cruise, we’re sharing Pépin’s signature recipe. The secret is both the seasoning blend and the cooking method. Many grills now have rotisserie attachments, so give the recipe a try at home, or we’re of course happy to prepare it for you any evening on board one of our ships!

 

0IFC 1-37 Europe 2012_BrandingJACQUES’ ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
{ SERVES 4 }
 
SEASONING BLEND
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried sage
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
 
1 whole chicken, 4½ to 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
 
Canola oil
Fleur de sel

FOR THE SEASONING BLEND: In a spice grinder, combine the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, and oregano and grind to a coarse powder. Transfer the ground mixture to a small bowl and stir in the salt, paprika, ginger, coriander, mace, white pepper, cloves, and cardamom.

FOR THE CHICKEN: Rotisserie and grill set-up will vary depending on the manufacturer, so follow the instructions provided with your equipment. For a grill that has a separate burner or infrared heating element for the rotisserie, preheat that area to medium-high and preheat the grill under the rotisserie to medium.

Place the chicken on a work surface and place a long piece of kitchen twine under the wings. Bring the twine up around the chicken and tie, securing the wings against the bird. Tie the drumsticks together with a separate piece of twine. Trussing the chicken will help it cook more evenly.

TO SEASON AND COOK THE CHICKEN: Rub the chicken with an even coating of the seasoning blend. You won’t need all of it. Store the remainder in an airtight container at room temperature for future use. Lightly dab the surface of the seasoned chicken with canola oil to help the spice blend adhere.

Secure the chicken to the rotisserie rod using the prongs provided. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the chicken skin from becoming too dark as the meat cooks. The chicken is done when a kitchen thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 165°F, about 1½ hours.

TO SERVE: Remove the chicken from the rotisserie and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

July 9, 2014

ALASKA AND REGATTA: THE PERFECT COMBINATION

By Jason Lasecki, Senior Director of Public Relations

The hottest thing on cable television these days seems to be America’s 49th state. With shows ranging from Alaska State Troopers and Deadliest Catch to Buying Alaska and Wild Alaska, there is a never-ending fascination with America’s last frontier, and with good reason. Alaska offers some of the most picturesque and pristine natural settings in the world, and there’s no better way to experience the wonderment of Alaska than on board the newly refurbished Regatta.

Having recently sailed on the 10-night Majesty of Alaska voyage, it’s clear to me that the beauty and splendor of Alaska coupled with the elegance and style of Regatta create a magical and memorable combination.

Regatta

The ship itself was immaculate, and the additions made during the refurbishment, such as Baristas coffee bar and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café, were a huge hit with guests sailing on Regatta. Many guests congregated at the redesigned Horizons bar to soak in some musical entertainment and incredible Alaskan vistas, while others enjoyed sipping a cocktail at the restyled Martinis.   

Baristas(New)

Horizons(New)

Oceania Cruises is well known for having the finest cuisine at sea, and when it’s paired with one of Alaska’s stunning late evening sunsets, you’re assured an amazing dining experience. While enjoying an exquisite dinner one particular evening at Toscana, we were treated to a painted sky sunset as the ship sailed a scenic fjord, passing by glimmering waterfalls and soaring bald eagles.

Sunset

The intimate nature of Oceania Cruises’ mid-size ships allows the staff to provide attentive personalized service to each guest, and the ideally sized ships offer an additional advantage when cruising Alaska because the captain can provide closer and more breathtaking views of one of Alaska’s premier attractions—the glaciers! During our visit to Hubbard Glacier, we were so close we could hear popping sounds as sheets of ice calved into the ocean.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier 2

One of the highlights of any Alaska cruise is the wildlife. Whales, bears, eagles, otters and seals are abundant, and Oceania Cruises offers a wide array of shore excursions that provide you the best opportunities to see these majestic animals. Definitely a sight to remember was a pod of orcas that paid our boat a visit during a whale-watching tour in Juneau. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s common to spot whales, eagles, seals and sea lions from the comfort of Regatta.

Orca Pod 2

Orca Pod

Speaking of wildlife, we came across this guy while on a nature hike in Hoonah. Readers, any clue on what species of bird this is?

Bird

June 18, 2014

A RED GINGER FAVORITE: LOBSTER PAD THAI

Today we’re sharing our recipe for Lobster Pad Thai, one of the most popular dishes served at the onboard restaurant Red Ginger. There are many variations; our version is light, fragrant and not too spicy – although you can certainly add extra kick if your palate prefers! We hope you’ll try the recipe at home or come taste the Asian creations of our talented chefs on board – either in Red Ginger restaurant on Marina and Riviera, or in the Grand Dining Room on Regatta, Insignia and Nautica where dishes from Red Ginger are featured nightly.

LOBSTER PAD THAI

IMG_0160 - Version 23 cups rice noodles
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamari sauce or light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (optional)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small leek, thinly sliced
1 cup lobster, shrimp, chicken, or pressed tofu pieces
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 lime wedges
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon slivered daikon radish, salted (optional)

Soak the rice noodles in warm water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain well.

In a small bowl, whisk the tamarind paste in the water until dissolved. Add the fish sauce, tamari sauce, rice wine vinegar, and palm sugar. For a spicy dish, add the nam prick pao. Whisk well and set aside.

Lay out the remaining ingredients and garnishes in the order they will be used, so you will be able to work quickly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and two-thirds of the scallions, reserving the remaining scallions for garnish. Heat for 30 seconds to release the aromas, moving the ingredients constantly to avoid burning them. Push the garlic, ginger, and scallions up one side of the wok, off the direct heat. Add the leek and cook for about 1 minute, until it softens. Push the leek up the side of the wok. Add the lobster and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it turns opaque. Mix the lobster with the garlic, ginger, scallions, and leeks.

Working quickly, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and the eggs and scramble lightly. Then add the prepared noodles and sauce and stir-fry everything for about 1 minute, just until the noodles are warm. Fold in the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce and nam prik pao if needed. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the toasted sesame oil. Quickly transfer the pad Thai to plates or bowls.

Garnish with the lime wedges, peanuts, the reserved scallions, and the radish. Serve immediately.

May 5, 2014

SIGNATURE SAILINGS: YOUR WORLD AND BEYOND

As if visiting the world’s most fascinating destinations weren’t enticing enough, Oceania Cruises also offers several Signature Sailings with guest celebrities and special events to enhance your remarkable vacation.

In a recent blog, I wrote about the Viking Passage Signature Sailing, featuring hall of fame broadcaster Verne Lundquist. But he won’t be the only special guest on board this transoceanic voyage. Barbara Seagram, an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor, will be on board to conduct classes and tournaments.

If bridge is your passion, there are eight other opportunities to see the world and improve your bridge game with American Contract Bridge League instructors on board between May and December. 

Jaques PepinWorld-renowned master chef Jacques Pépin, who is the executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, will be on board the Explore the Isles sailing, which departs July 23 and sails roundtrip from London. Guests will enjoy special signature menus, engaging lectures, culinary demonstrations and much more.

Departing June 10, Historic Holy Lands will be an especially noteworthy Signature Sailing as it celebrates the return of Insignia to the Oceania Cruises INSIGNIA_008fleet. Founding Chairman Joe Watters will host this gala voyage aboard the newly refurbished Insignia with his wife, Virginia, who is Insignia’s godmother. Guests will be treated to a number of exclusive events and festivities, including a momentous rechristening ceremony in Istanbul.

 

OceaniaClubCrestLargeAlways a special occasion for Oceania Cruises’ valued past guests, the 11th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise promises a memorable Signature Sailing when Riviera departs on the Gems of Antiquity voyage on July 29. Reunion cruises honor our cherished Oceania Club members, and this year’s cruise will feature a private cocktail reception hosted by the Captain as well as exclusive shore excursions in Istanbul, Santorini and Kusadasi, among other celebratory events.

From Europe to Africa and South America to the South Pacific, don’t miss your opportunity to explore your world and beyond on one of Oceania Cruises' special Signature Sailings.

February 17, 2014

HO CHI MINH CITY AND THE VIETNAMESE COUNTRYSIDE

SaigonAlthough Ho Chi Minh City made the news last week for the grand opening of Vietnam’s first McDonald’s, guests on board Nautica got nothing but a quintessentially Vietnamese experience over the weekend while exploring this city of more than nine million and its surrounding countryside.

Known as Saigon prior to the end of the Vietnam War and still referred to as such by many, the city’s name was officially changed to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976, in honor of the revolutionary leader who served as prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1945 until his death in 1969. Oceania Cruises offers several shore excursions that explore this bustling metropolis, from its wartime relics and colonial architecture to its folkloric traditions and spiritual heritage, and excursions into the Vietnamese countryside are available as well.

Because Nautica frequently stays overnight in Ho Chi Minh City, guests have ample time to explore and take advantage of the opportunity to experience the contrast of city and country life. For me, there is nothing as energizing as immersing myself in the culture of a thriving urban center, but just as appealing is the serene countryside, where often I find a more authentic expression of cultural traditions that have been passed down through the centuries.

Guests on board Nautica enjoyed warm temperatures and bright sunshine while exploring the Vietnamese countryside on the Mekong River Cruise shore excursion. At the mouth of the seventh longest river in Asia, the Mekong Delta is one of the “rice baskets” of Vietnam, contributing about 50 percent of country’s rice production. Life in the Mekong Delta is centered on the river, and many of the locals spend their time paddling its canals and tributaries, whether farming, fishing, trading or escorting visitors on tours.

Mekong River Dusk

Vietnam Canal Cruise Paddler

The shore excursion began in My Tho. Considered the gateway to the Mekong Delta, the city was founded by Chinese refugees fleeing Taiwan in the 1680s. Here guests toured the Vinh Trang Pagoda, an ornate sanctuary near the city center set amidst beautiful gardens and decorated with carved and gilded wood. The laughing Buddha statue, an image believed to have originated in Chinese folklore, towers over the peaceful retreat where monks provide a home for orphaned, needy and disabled children.

Vinh Trang Buddha

Guests then boarded a motorboat and began to get a feel for daily life on the Mekong Delta as they passed fruit orchards, stilt houses, fish and shrimp farms and a vast variety of boats.

Far from the lines at the new McDonald’s in Ho Chi Minh City, guests stopped to explore the picturesque Thoi Son Island and enjoy a lunch of authentic Vietnamese food before continuing on to visit a family-run coconut candy factory. They then traded their motorboat for smaller, more traditional sampans and concluded the day with a scenic cruise through the narrow, tree-line canals of the lush delta.

Lunch at Thoi Son Island-Saigon

Thoi San Island-2

Oceania Cruises offers several opportunities to visit Vietnam in 2015. Enjoy a tranquil afternoon in the countryside, a thrilling day in Vietnam’s largest city, or both, because all the 2015 cruises feature overnight stays in Ho Chi Minh City!

 Photos by Peter Pretty

December 20, 2013

AN EVENING OF AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE IN TOSCANA

DSC04822 - Version 2As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I share this post today to right an egregious wrong. In looking through past posts, I discovered that somehow I have never devoted a blog to Toscana. Considering it is not only my favorite restaurant on the ships but also one of my favorite restaurants period, I can’t believe I’ve neglected Toscana in this way.

Perhaps I’ve been reluctant to share my passion for Toscana because I’ve been teased about how much I love this restaurant. This is probably because each time I join friends for dinner here, my first question is, “How many courses is everyone having?” At my birthday dinner in Toscana, one of my friends answered, “Two.” I very nearly invited her to leave the party.

Toscana03Toscana serves authentic Italian recipes prepared with all the love and care of a Tuscan grandmother. And in some cases the recipes actually came from a Tuscan grandmother. Many dishes were created by Oceania Cruises’ talented team of international chefs, and others are generations-old family recipes shared by Italian crew members.

These wonderful recipes beg to be accompanied by a fabulous wine, so as with all evenings in Toscana, my most recent visit began with perusing the list of exclusive Italian wines. While the obvious choice would be a Chianti, my party selected a Famiglia Anselma Barolo from the Piedmont region, northwest of Tuscany. Typically bold and full bodied, Barolo is one of Italy’s greatest wines, and the Anselma family certainly knows Barolo because that is all that they make.

Next it was time to select that essential ingredient in any Italian meal, olive oil. We were presented a menu detailing the range of flavors and intensities of several extra virgin and infused olive oils. With olive oil this good, I prefer to savor the pure characteristics and aromas of the oil, but for those who like to add balsamic vinegar to their olive oil, an equally high-quality selection of balsamic vinegars is also featured. Our chosen olive oils were poured for us, and there was a diverse assortment of fresh homemade breads presented to dip in the oil.

Toscana02 Toscana01

Then it was time to get down to business. I almost always begin with the Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese, as I simply can’t resist fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil. The Caprese salad is one of the best ways to enjoy these Italian staples – fresh, full of flavor and complemented by a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The more adventurous will want the try the Carpaccio di Polpo. This octopus carpaccio served with a warm potato salad and champagne vinaigrette is not only delicious but also one of the prettiest dishes on the menu.

Toscana05 Toscana06

On this particular evening, I decided to try a new antipasto, the Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata, which showcases one of the most treasured of Tuscan delicacies, the truffle. This timbale is made with artichokes and Parmesan cheese, served with a black truffle sauce and drizzled with arugula-infused olive oil. The flavors were exquisite, both rich and perfectly balanced.

In Tuscany, pasta is not typically served as an entrée but rather as an earlier course in the meal. So in Toscana, you can enjoy a small pasta dish as a first course, or “il primo,” and still try one of the delectable beef, lamb or fish dishes as an entrée. The chefs seem to have anticipated my difficulty in deciding between all the wonderful pastas, as they kindly created the Trio Toscana that allows you to sample two delicious pastas and a risotto in one dish. The trio includes a perfectly prepared lobster risotto, a classic fettuccine carbonara, and a spinach and ricotta tortelloni laced with a delicate sage butter. If you prefer a tomato-based sauce, try the Linguine Cioppino with seafood in a light pinot grigio and cherry tomato sauce.

Toscana07 Toscana08

Toscana10The Tuscans are fond of their grilled meats, so on this visit I selected the Filetto di Manzo alla Fiorentina as my entrée. The filet mignon is served with a Gorgonzola crust, sautéed garlic spinach, grilled polenta and a Brunello sauce. I typically order steak when I dine at Polo Grill, but now I will definitely consider a steak entrée at Toscana as well. Each bite melted in my mouth.

The veal dishes are also very popular, such as the bone-in veal chop in wild porcini mushroom sauce. And as if there aren’t enough options already, Toscana also features dishes from neighboring regions of Italy, such as the Osso Buco alla Milanese and Lasagna al Forno alla Bolognese. If you somehow manage to save room for dessert, Toscana has an excellent tiramisu.

 

Toscana09a
Needless to say, I am completely satiated when I finish a meal in Toscana, and yet each time I leave I’m already looking forward to my next visit. If you love Toscana as much as I do, feel free to share your favorite dishes in the comments here on the blog!

December 12, 2013

RIVIERA'S WINTER SAILINGS OFFER THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE VIBRANT MIAMI

Beach-Final
As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’m always paying close attention to where the fleet is sailing, and I’m constantly amazed at the multitude of worldwide destinations to which these intimate mid-size ships can take you. In fact, sometimes I’m so intrigued by the exotic ports of call that I forget the treasures that are closer to home. Riviera’s arrival in Miami today as she concludes her first cruise of the winter season was a reminder that cosmopolitan Miami is blessed with wonderful diversity in architecture, culture and cuisine, and the city is constantly evolving as well.

IMG_0885 x-2

Few cities on earth are experiencing a renaissance as notable as that which is taking place in Miami. In just under a decade, the city has quickly become one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises, and the skyline now stretches across the horizon. If you haven’t sailed from Miami in the past few years, you might not recognize it at all. New hotels, fine restaurants, Cuban cafés, charming boutiques and stylish shops have opened their doors just steps from Riviera’s renovated Miami pier. And from Riviera’s decks, guests can see the stunning new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), which just opened last week. The museum was designed by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel.”

Art DecoThe beauty of a city like Miami is that it has found a way to celebrate the future while still preserving its past. Even as shining glass towers reach skyward in downtown, the extraordinary Art Deco District on South Beach lures visitors with its sleek architecture, period neon signs and cool preservationist vibe. Nearly 1,000 buildings are protected by law, and the entire district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of our guests admit they could spend the day doing nothing but walking along chic Ocean Drive.

Also on the National Register of Historic Places is the Freedom Tower on Biscayne Boulevard. Once the headquarters of The Miami News, the Freedom Tower was used by the US government to provide services for refugees fleeing Castro’s regime in the 1960s. Reminiscent of the Giralda in Seville, Spain, the Mediterranean Revival–style building now stands as a monument to Cuban American heritage. You can get a taste of the Cuban culture that thrives in Miami today with a stroll along Calle Ocho in Little Havana, a landmark street lined with coffee shops, salons, galleries, parks, markets and boutiques. Be sure to stop in to Café Versailles for a cup of Cuban coffee and grab a Cuban sandwich or some roast pork with mojo for lunch. Known as “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” Versailles is the unofficial town square for the Cuban community.

IMG_5948 vistacrop-2It’s becoming obvious that a single day spent exploring Miami is never enough. Fortunately, since several itineraries embark and disembark in Miami, there are many options for extending your visit with a pre- or post-cruise stay. Oceania Cruises offers a variety of one-, two- and three-night hotel packages at two of the city’s most distinguished hotels. After a recent redesign and $31 million in extensive renovations, the Marriott Biscayne Bay boasts gorgeous waterfront views and a location just across from the hip Miami Art and Design Districts. At the JW Marriott Marquis, guests can choose from a number of delightful pursuits, ranging from dining at James Beard award winner Chef Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne to attending the world-renowned Jim McLean Golf School with instruction, golf simulators, putting greens and a Pro Shop.

You can rub shoulders with Miami society’s glitterati at the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa on Miami Beach, a resort with boundless facilities that inspire healthy living and promote wellness. Oceania Cruises offers a two-night package with full access to Canyon Ranch's state-of-the-art, 70,000-square-foot Wellness Spa, the largest in Florida. Lose yourself in the Aquavana® thermal suite, a collection of European-style healing aquatic environments including the Finnish sauna and rooftop HydroSpa. You also receive a $150 spa credit, so indulge in a Thai massage and restorative touch therapy or enjoy a facial enhancement that leaves your skin looking more vibrant and youthful.

Take advantage of the opportunity to explore vibrant Miami when you reserve a voyage with Oceania Cruises in 2014. Our special Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa package is offered as a pre-cruise option on the following sailings:

The package is also offered as a post-cruise option on the following voyages:

November 25, 2013

MEMORIES OF BARCELONA

Marina and Riviera have said goodbye to Europe for 2013 and set sail for warmer waters for the winter. Both ships ended their final European cruise of the season in Barcelona, an amazing city that I’ve so enjoyed exploring as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises.

One of the things that makes Barcelona distinctive is its blend of traditional architecture interspersed with the modernist buildings of Gaudí. The renowned architect’s inimitable style is found throughout the city, as he designed everything from private homes to public parks and churches. One of Barcelona’s most famous façades, Casa Batlló is the most unique and striking building I’ve ever seen. Now a museum and event space, Casa Batlló was built from 1904 to 1906 as a private home for textile industrialist Josep Batlló.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo 2

Next door is another modernist building, Casa Amatller. While it was designed by Gaudí contemporary Josep Puig i Cadafalch, the style is drastically different. The contrasting styles of these buildings, along with two more nearby homes by two other modernist architects, have earned this block the moniker of Illa de la Discòrdia, or Block of Discord.

Casa Batllo and Casa Amatller

Wine and TapasAfter visiting Casa Batlló, I stopped for some tapas and wine on the patio of a restaurant just down the street on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most fashionable and expensive streets in Barcelona. Every time I visit Spain I’m truly amazed at what the Spanish can do with just bread, tomato and a touch of garlic. Pan con tomate (literally “bread with tomato”) is one of my favorite tapas. Add a little manchego cheese and I am in heaven! I also enjoyed a glass of El Perro Verde (The Green Dog), a lovely and very reasonably priced Spanish verdejo.

It was a good thing I fortified myself with tapas, because my next stop, Park Güell, is perched on the top of a very steep hill overlooking the city. Esuebi Güell, a well-known Catalan industrialist, commissioned Gaudí to create a residential garden village. Although the residential project failed, the city of Barcelona acquired the property and opened it to the public as a park.

The entrance, unmistakably designed by Gaudí, is composed of four flights of ornately decorated stairs, including a beautifully tiled dragon-like lizard, one of the best-known images of the park.

Park Guell

Among the completed buildings were two pavilions for visitors and park keepers, also distinctly Gaudí. The number of beautiful, detailed mosaics, sculptures and structures is astounding. The park is essentially a spectacular outdoor museum with free entrance!

Park Guell 7

Park Guell 8

Park Guell 3

Park Guell 4

Park Guell 5 Park Guell 6

I’ve shared a few blogs about Barcelona, but there is so much to see and do in this city that I’ve only scratched the surface. I look forward to sharing more when Oceania Cruises’ ships return to Europe next season, and I hope I’ve inspired you to plan your European cruise for 2014! Oceania Cruises makes frequent stops in Barcelona in the summer season, so hopefully you will have a chance to visit on one of these cruises or the many others offered:

November 18, 2013

A DAY IN FLORENCE

Last week Nautica, Marina and Riviera all called on the port of Livorno, the gateway to Tuscany. From this port, you can explore the beautiful Tuscan countryside and so many charming towns, from Pisa to Cinque Terre to San Gimignano. Of course, one of the most popular places to visit is the grand city of Florence.

View of Florence

I recently took the Florence On Your Own shore excursion, which is perfect if you want the freedom to wander the streets of this amazing city at your own pace without worrying about getting back to the ship on time. A comfortable, air-conditioned bus picked me up at the ship for the two-hour trip to Florence, during which a guide shared info and maps that helped me navigate the city. Once we arrived, I had six lovely hours to enjoy Florence before the bus picked me up and returned me to the ship.

The bus dropped me off at the Piazza di Santa Croce, just off the Arno River and near the Basilica di Santa Croce, where I began my day. Construction began on the basilica, the principal Franciscan church in Florence, in 1294. With 16 chapels, it is the largest Franciscan church in the world and the burial place of some of history’s most famous Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini.

Basilica di Santa Croce Basilica di Santa Croce Door

At the steps of the Basilica di Santa Croce stands a statue dedicated to the great Italian poet, Dante. Donated in 1865 to celebrate the sixth century since Dante’s birth, the statue was moved to the steps of the basilica in 1968. Born in Florence, Dante was eventually condemned to exile for political reasons, and it wasn’t until 2008 that Dante’s sentence was rescinded. Thus, while the city of Florence built a tomb for Dante in the Basilica di Santa Croce in the 19th century, his remains are still in a tomb in Ravenna, the city where he died. At each corner of the base of the Dante statue sits a rather stern-looking heraldic lion with one paw on the city’s coat of arms, said to represent the power of the people of the Republic of Florence.

Basilica di Santa Croce Dante Statue Basilica di Santa Croce Lions Dante Statue

With only one basilica down, I was already starving. I stopped at a restaurant on the piazza and enjoyed one of the best Caprese salads I’ve ever had, accompanied by some delicious prosciutto, a rich lasagna and a glass of red wine. Suffice it to say, I was sated and ready to continue exploring.

Lunch Caprese Salad

My next stop was Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous bridge. Originally built during Roman times, it is the oldest bridge in Florence. The current structure was built in 1345, and the workshops along the bridge were mainly used by butchers and tanners. Today the shops offer a wide array of jewelry and souvenirs to the many tourists that visit.

Ponte Vecchio

Plaza VecchioAfter Ponte Vecchio I moved on to the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. At the end of the 13th century, Florentines decided to build a palace that provided greater security to the magistrates. The massive Romanesque fortress is one of the most impressive in Tuscany and overlooks the Piazza della Signoria.

The Fountain of Neptune stands on the piazza, as well as a replica of Michelangelo’s David, marking the place where the original statue once stood. The original is now housed in the Accademia Gallery, about a 15-minute walk north of the Palazzo Vecchio, and I consider it to be one of Florence’s must-see sights. While you’ve probably seen any number of the images and replicas of the statue that seem to pervade Western culture, the original is truly astounding in its scale, detail and beauty.

Palazzo Vecchio Neptune

Plaza Vecchio David

Uffizi Gallery CourtyardNear the Palazzo Vecchio and also well worth a visit is the amazing Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world. The gallery houses some of Italy’s greatest works of art, including works by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. One of my favorite works in this museum is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, although it’s almost ludicrous to name any favorite amidst the incredible collection of masterworks. There is usually a long line to get into the Uffizi, so I highly recommend advance reservations, which can be made online for a fee. Oceania Cruises also offers excursions to both the Uffizi and the Accademia Gallery, so you can avoid the lines at both.

There are so many wonderful things to see in Florence, and I haven’t even mentioned the Duomo yet, one of the most famous and impressive cathedrals in Europe! I’ll save that for a future blog, and if you want to see this wonderful city for yourself, here are just a few of the ample opportunities to visit with Oceania Cruises in 2014:

November 4, 2013

MORE OF THE BIG APPLE

This week Regatta made her final stop in New York for 2013 before sailing south to warmer waters for the winter season, so I am taking this opportunity to share the remainder of my photos from my most recent trip to this fabulous city as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises.

On this trip I was very much looking forward to visiting to the 9/11 Memorial. Tickets to visit the memorial are free, but you do need to get them in advance if you are not on a prearranged tour. I highly recommend the Oceania Cruises shore excursion Downtown Manhattan and the 9/11 Memorial, which includes a harbor cruise past the Statue of Liberty and a walking tour of Lower Manhattan followed by a visit to the memorial.

Honoring the lives of those who were lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, the memorial occupies 8 of the 16 acres of the former World Trade Center complex. Names of all the lives lost are inscribed in bronze plaques that surround the two waterfalls and reflecting pools set in the footprints of the twin towers. Like a beacon of hope, the new One World Trade Center being built to replace the twin towers rises over the memorial plaza. 

9 11 7 9 11 1

There is no way to describe the feeling of arriving on this solemn scene. The roaring water of the fountains blocks out the ambient noises, so I was left with what felt like a very solitary experience of the monument despite being surrounded by visitors. I knew it would be a powerful tribute, but there is no way to really know how moving the experience will be until you are there. It is a poignant testament to the impact of the tragedy and the incredible strength and resilience of the American people, particularly New Yorkers, in the wake of the devastation.  

9 11 6 9 11 3

After visiting the memorial, I spent some time walking the streets of Manhattan and just taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful city. The skyscrapers soaring over historic churches nestled in their shadows. The car engines and taxi horns blending somehow harmoniously with the din of voices, within which I could discern any number of accents and languages as I strolled through the multitude of faces. Ultimately, the tempting aromas from the street vendors and local restaurants drew me to my final quintessential New York experience of the day – pizza!

When an Italian immigrant reinvented a Neapolitan staple food in 1897, New York–style pizza was born. In 1905 Lombardi’s was licensed by the city of New York, becoming America’s first pizzeria. There are now pizzerias on just about every street corner in New York (Ray’s and Original Ray’s being the most ubiquitous), but what makes Lombardi’s special, along with a handful of other pizzerias in the city, is the brick oven. In an authentic New York pizzeria, the ingredients are fresh and the pizza is baked to order in a brick oven.

Lombardis 1 Lombardis 2

I “accidentally” ordered a large pizza and for a few minutes was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish, even with the help of my friend who had happily agreed to join me. But walking the streets of New York and the smell of Lombardi’s pizza have a way of making a girl hungry, and I am proud to say, there was not much left when we were finished.

Lombardis 4

One of the greatest things about New York is that, no matter how many times you visit, there is always more to see and do. If you’ve never been, you simply must add this city to your bucket list. And there are some distinct advantages to seeing the city on an Oceania Cruises voyage. New York is a city in which it’s easy to drop several hundred dollars on food and lodging in just a day or two, but with your Oceania Cruises home away from home awaiting you in port, you can sample the local fare, see the sights and then return to the luxurious accommodations and fine cuisine on board and take full advantage of Oceania Cruises’ incredible value. Plus, on these 2014 voyages, you can also visit a number of other wonderful cities along the American and Canadian coasts – and even the Caribbean!

 

October 29, 2013

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

Regatta arrived in New York City today, and guests will enjoy an overnight stay in the city that never sleeps. Overnight stays are one of the hallmarks of Oceania Cruises itineraries, and if any city merits two full days of exploration, New York City certainly does.

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to cities all over the world, and each one holds a special place in my heart. But when I visit New York, it’s a different experience than disembarking in a city on distant shores. I know the language; I know the culture; I know the traffic laws. But no matter how familiar it may feel, each visit fills me with new excitement at the prospect of further exploring this wonderful city.

As I’ve previously visited New York’s most famous sights, on my most recent visit I decided to dig deeper into the quintessential New York experience. I began by heading uptown to 112th Street and Amsterdam to get a glimpse at the spectacular Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. One of the largest Christian churches in the world, construction began on the cathedral in 1892. The original design was Byzantine-Romanesque, traces of which can be seen in the dome, but was changed to a Gothic style in the early 1900s. A fire in 2001 badly damaged the inside and it was closed to the public until 2008. Although yet unfinished, the cathedral is just as breathtaking on the inside as it is on the outside.

St John the Divine 1 St John the Divine 2

St John the Divine 4 St john the Divine 3

As a foodie, I was especially looking forward to my next stop. From 112th street, I made my way down to 80th Street and Broadway to Zabar’s grocery store. In 1934, Louis and Lillian Zabar opened a small counter in the Daitch Market with the idea of selling the highest quality smoked fish at a fair price (a philosophy that Oceania Cruises can appreciate, as the company was founded on offering a luxurious cruising experience at an exceptional value). Almost 80 years later this market is a celebration of everything good about food: barrels of olives, walls of cheeses (some hanging from the ceiling), fresh bread, and I lost count after 15 different kinds of butter from all over the world.

Zebars

Zebars Cheese Zebars Bread

Zebars Butter

Zebars Olives

I might still be standing in the chocolate section, but after being surrounded by so much amazing food, it was time to eat. So I headed south to Carnegie Deli, across the street from Carnegie Hall. There is usually a line out front, but if your party is small, it moves fast. And if you are as hungry as I was, fear not, because right away you can enjoy a generous serving of an assortment of real New York pickles.

Carnegie Deli 3 Carnegie Pickles

Family owned and operated since 1937, the restaurant has several rooms, the walls of which are covered with hundreds of photos of famous people who have eaten here. There is nothing romantic about it, but if what you want is great New York deli food, you can’t go wrong here. The menu is enormous but I came for the basics: matzo ball soup and a pastrami sandwich on rye. The portions are generous to say the least, so I recommend sharing! The soup was heavenly and the pastrami was perfect. They just don’t make pastrami like that where I come from!

Carnegie Soup Carnegie Sandwich

These highlights of my day are just the beginning of my New York experience, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon. If you are hoping to explore this amazing city for the first time or return for more, there are several opportunities to sail there with Oceania Cruises in 2014:

October 14, 2013

ENCHANTED BY CINQUE TERRE

Today Marina calls on La Spezia, Italy, and guests have the chance to visit delightful Cinque Terre. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I had the opportunity to visit the villages of Cinque Terre last year, and they are the most enchanting I’ve seen.

Intro

Cinque Terre is composed of five fishing villages along the stunning Ligurian coast of Italy. Soaring cliffs rise straight out of the sea, and this rugged landscape kept these towns inaccessible by land and completely isolated for centuries. As a result, the traditional Ligurian culture has been remarkably well preserved, and Cinque Terre is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Even today it is very difficult to reach the villages by car, and no traffic is allowed in the historical centers. The best way to reach the villages is by boat or train, both of which are available from La Spezia. There are also hiking trails that lead between each of the villages, although some require steep ascents or descents, often via stairs. The easiest, shortest and most famous path is the Via dell’Amore, or “Lovers’ Lane,” that runs between Manarola and Riomaggiore and offers spectacular views. But then, in Cinque Terre almost any vantage point offers spectacular views.

My visit began in the village of Manarola. At first I was simply mesmerized by the uniquely scenic beauty of the town, embodying all the romance of the Italian Riviera. But I was even more astounded to imagine what perseverance had been required to create these isolated villages and ensure their survival. In addition to fishing, the locals have made their living through the centuries by constructing thousands of miles of terraces along the cliffs on which grapes and olives are grown. Because of the challenging topography, most of the cultivation of the vineyards is done manually. Today Cinque Terre offers a picturesque and peaceful retreat only because of centuries of hard work and determination.

Manarola Manarola 3

Manarola 2 Manarola Terraces

My next stop was Vernazza. Both Vernazza and Monterosso were devastated during a freakishly severe rainstorm that caused destructive floods and mudslides in October 2011. But both towns rallied impressively afterward and made a remarkable recovery. Now the cafés, restaurants and shops are all bustling again as tourists and locals alike enjoy Vernazza’s charming waterfront, one of the most photographed spots along a coastline that inspires infinite photographs.

Vernazza Vernazza 2

My final stop for the day was Monterosso al Mare, where the Torre Aurora stands on a promontory overlooking the sea. The medieval tower was one of several constructed in the 16th century to protect the town from pirates. A lovely walk along the coast took me from the train station past the Torre Aurora to the Old Town.

Monterossa Monterosso with Torre Aurora

Monterosso has some lovely churches, such as the 14th century Church of Saint John the Baptist with its striking striped façade and rose window.

Church of St

Next door is the Church of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer. This charitable brotherhood for the poor, farmers, fishermen and sailors was committed to providing burials for those who could not afford it. As I was admiring the Baroque details of the church, I suddenly found myself taking a much closer look. The interior was adorned with skeletons, a reminder of the inevitability of death. It is said that pirates donated their treasure to the church in an attempt to save their souls.

Church of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer Church of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer 2

Church of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer Skeleton decor Church of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer Skeleton decor 2

After a day of touring, I stopped into one of the lovely restaurants that lined the narrow streets. I felt obligated to reward the local fishermen and vintners for their efforts, so my choice for lunch was an easy one: seafood pasta and a local wine. Both were absolutely delicious, and the crisp white wine beautifully complemented the flavors of the pasta. Liguria is also known for its pesto, so as an appetizer, I tried some trofie al pesto. The hand-rolled pasta was the perfect marriage for the best pesto I’ve ever tasted.

Cafe Cafe Pasta

Cafe wine

I was content to conclude my visit without seeing the other two villages, Riomaggiore and Corniglia, because that gave me an excuse to return! Oceania Cruises offers excursions to Cinque Terre not only from La Spezia but from Livorno as well. I hope you have the chance to visit these captivating villages on an upcoming Oceania Cruises voyage. 

 

 

October 11, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES UNVEILS NEW “TASTE OF THE WORLD” MENU

If you follow Oceania Cruises’ blog, then you know that as Blogger-at-Large, I love travel and I love food. Oceania Cruises has always appreciated that the two go hand in hand, because one of the greatest parts of travel is experiencing the variety of world cuisines. This is one reason that we feature many later evening departures and overnight stays in port, so that guests have plenty of time to sample the local fare and enjoy an authentic meal ashore. At the same time, the onboard cuisine is the finest at sea, and the culinary program is designed to reflect the varied flavors of the international destinations we visit. Our chefs continually strive to enhance this onboard culinary experience, and we are very excited to unveil their latest innovation.

Franck GarangerAfter many months of research, experimentation and plenty of tastings by both chefs and executives, Oceania Cruises is pleased to introduce the Taste of the World dishes. Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and his culinary team thoroughly researched and tested more than 80 recipes to create this new collection that captures the essence of 13 countries with six to seven recipes presented on each plate. These new dishes celebrate the authentic flavors of some of the most intriguing areas to which Oceania Cruises sails.

The new Taste of the World dishes will be featured during lunch in the Grand Dining Room and the Terrace Café on each Oceania Cruises ship beginning in January 2014 as part of an entirely new menu (about which I’ll share further tantalizing details in a future blog!). Guests who have lunch in the Grand Dining Room can order a Taste of the World selection as an entrée or enjoy it as an appetizer, perfectly sized to share with the entire table.

Cuisine onboard Oceania Cruises is noted for its variety, and the Taste of the World dishes are no exception. Here are few of my favorites (and I freely admit that my love for some of these cruising regions has a lot to do with which Taste of the World choices I will enjoy the most).

What is more enticing than golden and emerald buddhas, red-roofed pagodas, terraced rice fields, buried terra cotta warriors or great walls that stretch for thousands of miles? For me, that would be Asian food, and the Taste of the World from Asia showcases some of the best of countries such as Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. Dig into crispy Prawns Tempura, a delectable Thai Beef Salad, creamy Avocado Rolls, tasty Wakame Salad, satisfying Vietnamese Chicken and Shrimp Fried Rolls, and a perfectly cooked Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce.

Taste of the World from Asia

Few countries tantalize the palate like Italy. Until you travel among the hills of Tuscany, glide across the canals of Venice, walk the cobbled streets of ancient Rome or sip a glass of limoncello among the lemon trees of the Amalfi Coast, you may not realize the incredible breadth and depth of Italian cuisine. Somehow the Taste of the World from Italy embodies all of the nation’s great flavors in just one plate featuring refreshing Melon and Prosciutto, delicious Cipolline in Agrodolce with Goat Cheese, tangy Grilled Marinated Vegetables, decadent Tomato Mozzarella Stracciatella, smooth Ricotta and Spinach Panzerotti, and lovely Fagottini di Bresaola e Ricotta.

Taste of the World from Italy

England has given us amazing cathedrals, crown jewels, stunning palaces, historic museums and iconic clock towers, but this popular destination’s cuisine is often overlooked. It’s a shame, because the best of English dishes presented on a single plate is a reminder of why this empire once stretched around the world. The Taste of the World from England presents a wonderful Salmon Cake with Tartar Sauce, savory Roast Beef with Coleslaw, fantastic Soft Eggs with Potato Salad, traditional Fish and Chips, surprisingly good Honey and Mustard Pickled Vegetables, classic Yorkshire Pudding and beloved Minced Beef and Onion Pie.

Taste of the World from England

Wander among the lavender fields of Provence, explore the small towns in the countryside, discover the great museums of Marseille and you have only scratched the surface of what this amazing region has to offer. With the Taste of the World from Provence, you will better understand the many cultural and artistic influences that have shaped Provence through the centuries. Sample Salted Cod Aioli, vibrant Artichokes Barigoule, a smooth Chicken Liver Pâté with Aubergine in Vinegar, spicy Nice Black Olive Tapenade, crunchy Fried Barbajuan with Spinach and Ricotta Stuffing, traditional Salad Niçoise with Tuna and a spirited Green Olive Fougasse.

Taste of the World from Provence

We get so caught up in the swaying palm trees, turquoise waters, white sand beaches and brightly colored undersea worlds of the Caribbean that it’s easy to forget its cuisine is among the most interesting and sought after in the world. With almost every major European power laying claim to an island at one point or another, the dishes served in the Caribbean hark back to an intriguing ancestry. Mix in the native plants and indigenous spices and things really start to get interesting. The Taste of the World from the Caribbean features spicy Jerk Chicken, Dirty Rice, refreshing Avocado and Pineapple Salad with a Passion Fruit Vinaigrette, moist Crab Cake with fiery Poblano Aioli, tart Lemon Marinated Fruit Salad, Dhal Puri Flat Bread and delicate Acras de Morue and Sweet Potatoes.

Taste of the World from Caribbean Island

Many other countries are also delectably profiled in the Taste of the World. Some of my favorites are the positively divine Eggplant Baba Ghanoush that is part of the Taste of the World from Turkey, the Lamb Bourekaki and Spanakopita included in the Taste of the World from Greece and the Beef Kefta with Yogurt Sauce served with the Taste of the World Morocco. I’m a big fan of Indian food, so the Taste of the World from India’s Chicken Tikka Salad, Samosa and Prawns Curry sound delicious. The Philippines are represented by Pork Spring Rolls and a Mango Salad, and Mexico tempts the palate with Fish Ceviche and Empanadas with Salsa Cruda. The rich fishing history of Scandinavian countries is showcased in Gravlax and Marinated Herring with some Swedish Meatballs and Polar Bread to keep things interesting. Last but certainly not least, the Taste of the World from Spain represents the many flavors of the country, ranging from a Valencia Spinach and Orange Salad to Beef Albondigas and Pulpo Alla Gallega.

Taste of the World has been a huge hit with guests who got a sneak peek during the preliminary onboard tastings, and those cruising with us in 2014 can look forward to enjoying this wonderful array of new dishes. The creativity and innovation of our chefs continues to uphold Oceania Cruises’ long-held reputation for serving the finest cuisine at sea.

September 25, 2013

MORE ADVENTURES WITH JACQUES PÉPIN ONBOARD RIVIERA

AnniversaryThe Jacques Pépin Signature Sailing onboard Riviera continues, and it has been a festive and eventful cruise. Jacques and his wife, Gloria, were surprised with a special celebration in Privée for their 47th wedding anniversary, complete with confetti and a beautiful cake created for the occasion by Oceania Cruises’ talented chefs.

When Riviera called on Ibiza, Pépin enjoyed a trip to the Sa Cova winery in the green hills of San Mateo. Grapes have been grown in this region since the time of the Phoenicians, including varietals such as monastrell, malvasia, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. Covering more than 22 acres, Sa Cova produces wines with grapes grown on the estate, using modern production techniques and high ecological standards combined with traditional methods and aging processes.

Pépin and his guests had a wonderful time with the winery’s friendly staff, who explained the production process and also offered a tasting of several different wines paired with local bread, aioli, sausage, cheese and ham. Any food and wine lovers on an Oceania Cruises voyage to Ibiza will not want to miss this shore excursion, Wine Tasting at Sa Cova!

Ibiza
While everyone on the cruise has greatly enjoyed exploring ashore, there have been several special events onboard as well. Chef Kelly of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center hosted “An Informal Chat with Chef Pépin” in which he shared several personal stories with guests, from his childhood as the son of restaurateurs to his position as the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. Pépin also shared several fond and funny memories of his work with Julia Child, with whom he collaborated on the award-winning television series Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home.

There have also been book signings and other opportunities for guests to interact with the renowned chef who is the inspiration behind Oceania Cruises’ exquisite cuisine. While the culinary experience on any Oceania Cruises voyage is exceptional, having legendary Chef Pépin onboard has truly made this cruise extraordinary.

September 16, 2013

10TH-ANNIVERSARY SAILING CONCLUDES A YEAR OF CELEBRATION

Nautica arrived in Athens today, marking the end of Oceania Cruises’ final 10th-anniversary sailing of the year. Hosted by Founding Chairman Joe Watters and his wife, Virginia, the cruise concluded with all the fanfare merited by this historic milestone.

Oceania Club Reception
On the evening of September 13, the Captain’s cocktail reception in Nautica Lounge was hosted by Captain Igor Bencina, Founding Chairman Watters, General Manager Carlo Gunetti, Oceania Club Ambassador Sharon Miceli and Cruise Director Nolan Dean (pictured above). Mr. Watters and the senior officers warmly welcomed each guest to the special event.

Greeting Guests Greeting Guests-2
At the celebratory reception, Mr. Watters expressed his gratitude for the patronage of all of Oceania Cruises’ guests over the past decade and for their loyalty in the years to come. He also recognized the individual officers and crew who have been with Oceania Cruises for its entire 10-year history, noting that these dedicated members of the Oceania Cruises family are certainly one of the reasons that guests continue to sail with us time and time again. 

10-Year Team Members
That evening Mr. and Mrs. Watters hosted several of Oceania Cruises’ most loyal guests for an exquisite dinner in Toscana, which of course included a celebratory toast. 

Toscana
Gala Tea with Chef

The celebration continued on September 14 at the Gala Teatime in Nautica Lounge. Executive Sous Chef Mario Santoro and the Nautica culinary team presented a magnificent event that included not only the artisan teas, delicious pastries and finger sandwiches that are guest favorites during the traditional daily teatime, but also ice sculptures, fine champagne, caviar and other special treats. Mr. Watters greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk more with several of Oceania Cruises’ loyal guests. 

 

Mr. Watters and Guests enjoy Gala Tea Gala Tea with Guests
The year 2013 has been full of celebrations marking the landmark 10th anniversary of Oceania Cruises. As the final anniversary sailing concludes, Oceania Cruises’ founders, executives, officers, crew and guests continue to reflect on fond memories of the past decade at sea and look forward with great excitement to the next 10 years and beyond.

September 11, 2013

REGATTA HOSTS MASTER CHEF JEAN-LOUIS DUMONET

Dumonet Demo1
Jean-Louis Dumonet, Karen Dumonet and Eric Barale

Regatta
has been playing host to two very special guests onboard the current Ultimate Panama Canal cruise. Master Chef Jean-Louis Dumonet and his wife, Karen, boarded Regatta in San Francisco for their first cruise ever and presented several cooking demonstrations during the sailing.

 

Dumonet Demo2
Barale, Dumonet and Macouin
Chef Dumonet is executive chef of the Union Club in New York City and president of the North American region of Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. This prestigious association of some of the world’s leading chefs is dedicated to preserving and spreading the French culinary arts, encouraging training in cuisine and assisting in professional development. Maître Cuisinier, or Master Chef, is one of the most esteemed titles that a chef can aspire to attain. Oceania Cruises Culinary Director Eric Barale and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger are also members of this eminent organization.

 

 

Chef Dumonet and his wife were joined by Barale as well as Traveling Senior Corporate Chef Renald Macouin in presenting entertaining and informative culinary demonstrations that were greatly enjoyed by guests throughout the voyage. As an additional treat, the Grand Dining Room menu featured one of Chef Dumonet’s special dishes each evening. Guests enjoyed creations such as Foie Gras Crème Brûlée, Sweet Corn Soup with Lobster, and Dumonet’s signature Chocolate Mousse.

August 22, 2013

REGATTA LEAVES HER HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO

Regatta is wrapping up another fantastic summer in Alaska with a final stop in San Francisco before following sunny skies to the Southern Hemisphere. Highlights of the summer included Oceania Cruises’ 10-year anniversary sailing with Chairman and Founder Frank Del Rio and his wife, Marcia – godmother of Regatta and stops in destinations as far west as Kodiak and Seward. As Regatta calls on San Francisco, this seems like the perfect time to share some of the amazing shoreside activities available from this charming city by the bay.

Alcatraz Island is a 25-acre island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, a little over a mile from the city. Designated as a maximum security prison in 1933, Alcatraz housed many infamous criminals, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert Franklin Straud, known as the “Birdman.” The tour of the island includes a roundtrip ferry ride with scenic views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the city, an opportunity to explore the island with a tour guide, access to the prison and a fascinating 45-minute cellhouse audio tour featuring interviews with former inmates and prison guards.

Alcatraz-2

Considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and certainly the most photographed, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1937 until 1964 when New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened. Completed in four years, the tremendous 746-foot-tall towers, enormous main cables and signature orange color attract 10 million visitors annually. And the views are stunning from either side of the bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge-2

San Francisco boasts several highly regarded museums, and many of the museum sites are as famous as the collections themselves. The Legion of Honor is a three-quarter-scaled adaptation of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, perched high on the headlands above the Golden Gate, offering fantastic views of the bridge and the city as well as a wonderful collection. Reopened in 2005, the new de Yong Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is an impressive modern building in the heart of San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco is also renowned for its cuisine. The birthplace of California Cuisine, the city is also home to some of the best Asian, Italian, Mexican and fusion cuisine in the world. Wine lovers will not want to miss an opportunity to tour Napa Valley, which offers world-class wineries as well as exquisite restaurants by famed chefs such as Thomas Keller, Michael Chiarello and Masaharu Morimoto.

If you’re looking for the opportunity to visit this amazing city, Regatta returns to San Francisco several times in 2014. Because many cruises embark or disembark here, you can take advantage of Oceania Cruises’ pre- or post-cruise hotel programs and spend a few extra days exploring the city before or after your cruise. It will be an experience you will never forget!

Regatta in San Francisco:

July 22, 2013

NAUTICA GUESTS FOLLOW THE MIDNIGHT SUN

Guests onboard Nautica wrapped up a thrilling journey to the top of the world today on Voyage of the Midnight Sun, and to celebrate we are sharing photos provided by guests who have enjoyed this adventure in the past. Typically Oceania Cruises offers an itinerary that ventures this far north just once a year, and it is a special trip for guests who truly yearn to explore the far reaches of the world. Remote and indescribably beautiful, these northern ports offer a glimpse of untouched areas seldom seen by most travelers.

Kristiansand, the capital of Vest-Agder County in Southern Norway, is Norway’s fifth largest city, with approximately 90,000 residents. Founded in the 17th century by King Christian IV, the old section of the town is brimming with character, notably its strictly right-angled streets called kvadraturen in Norwegian. This photo of the shores of Kristiansand captures the quaint beauty of the city.

1 Kristiansand Shores

Equally as enchanting is Bergen, which has been one of Norway’s major port cities since the 9th century. On the Troldhaugen & Fantoft Stave Church Tour, guests enjoyed a fascinating tour of Bergen and the suburbs including a stop at Troldhaugen, the home Edvard Grieg, one of Norway’s most famous composers. The excursion also visited the stunning Fantoft Stave Church, originally built in 1150. After a fire in 1992, the church was reconstructed exactly like the original, using timber from the Sognefjord forests north of Bergen.

2 Bergen 2 Bergen Grieg's House

In North Cape many guests participated in a crab fishing expedition on a deep-sea raft in the waters near Sarnesfjord. King crabs can live up to 30 years, measure up to 6.5 feet between their claws and weigh as much as 22 pounds. The king crabs caught on this excursion weighed in the neighborhood of 10 pounds, and guests enjoyed a fantastic meal at the end of the day.

3 Cape North Giant Alaska King Crab 3 Cape North Giant Alsaka King Crab 2

3 North Cape Crab Excusion 3 Cape North Preparing crab for lunch 3 Cape North Preparig Crab 2

One of the northernmost towns in the world, Hammerfest is situated on Kvaløya Island. The modern town was completely reconstructed after it was destroyed in World War II. The Hammerfest and Sami Camp Walking Tour explores the streets of this beautiful town and also visits Mikkelgammen Sami camp, where guests learn about the history and culture of the Sami people. On this excursion guests were treated to a reindeer spotting along the way.

4 Hammerfest Sami Camp Excursion 4 Wild Reindeer

4 Sami Elder 4 Sami Herders

Surrounded by mountain peaks and glaciers that rise majestically from the Arctic Ocean, Magdalena Bay is embraced by absolute wilderness and is covered with ice most of the year. One of the most remote and exotic places in the world, the bay is renowned for its pristine beauty. Very few travelers ever make it this far north, which is why this cruise was especially exciting for Oceania Cruises guests.

5 Magdalene Bay

The journey ended in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark since the 13th century. Far from being spoiled by modern developments, the city has done a remarkable job blending 20th century additions with the old world charm.

Copenhagen Canals

This unique cruise that makes its way to some of the northernmost destinations in the world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and usually this type of itinerary is offered only once a year. Next year Nautica will journey north on the Path of the Midnight Sun, departing August 2, 2014. Don’t miss the chance to see some of the most remote and beautiful places on earth!

 

Photos by Peter Pretty

July 15, 2013

10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING ONBOARD REGATTA CONCLUDES

Chairman and CEO Frank Del Rio recently concluded Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary sailing onboard Regatta, the ship that started it all. Regatta sailed from Seattle on the Coastal Alaska voyage on July 5th, exactly 10 years after the ship set sail on her inaugural voyage. Mr. Del Rio hosted the sailing with his wife, Marcia, who is Regatta’s godmother.

The sailing featured numerous celebrations in honor of the milestone anniversary. The exceptional culinary team flexed their creative muscles at the Gala Tea. High tea is a time-honored tradition onboard the ships of Oceania Cruises and is held each day at four o’clock in Horizons lounge. But the Gala Tea was a unique celebration that went above and beyond the traditional teatime selections. The talented chefs spent many hours preparing not only a vast assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries but also exquisite sculptures made from ice, fruit and chocolate to adorn Horizons for the special event.

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On one evening Mr. and Mrs. Del Rio hosted a special dinner in Terrace Café for some of Oceania Cruises’ most loyal guests. Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger prepared a special menu that included Steamed Prince Rupert Wild Halibut “au Caviar” with a Fennel and Saffron Emulsion, as well as Roasted Veal Rack Loin with Cocotte Potatoes.

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One of the most special evenings was the 10th Anniversary Oceania Club Cocktail Reception in honor of all of Oceania Cruises’ loyal guests as well as the dedicated officers, staff and crew. Some of the most traveled guests in Oceania Cruises’ history were onboard this sailing, including Mr. and Mrs. Kohel, Diamond Oceania Club members who were on their 56th cruise. Also recognized were Mr. and Mrs. Starzman, Platinum Oceania Club members who had sailed on Regatta’s inaugural voyage on July 5, 2003.

Platinum Members

Mr. Del Rio took the opportunity to thank all of Oceania Cruises’ guests who have made the past decade possible. He also joined Captain Vitaliy Silvachynsky and General Manager Jason Gelineau in honoring the team members who have been with Oceania Cruises for its 10-year history.

 

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Frank Del Rio, Captain Silvachynsky and GM Gelineau
 
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Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger is recognized


Captain Silvachynsky himself was one of those congratulated, along with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger. Several others were also recognized, including those pictured below.

Cabin Steward - Freddy Reyes
Steward Freddy Reyes
Bosun - Kosta Niolov
Bosun Kosta Niolov

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cellar Master - Marlito Medollar
Cellar Master Marlito Medollar
 
Chef De Cuisine - Edgar Valguna
Chef de Cuisine Edgar Valguna


 

 

Chef de Partie - Dindo Sabado
Chef de Partie Dindo Sabado
Chef De Partie - Jonathon Bravo
Chef de Partie Jonathon Bravo


 

 

Chief Purser - Doru Gherghin
Chief Purser Doru Gherghin
Jr Sous Chef - Amador Gutierrez
Jr Sous Chef Amador Gutierrez


 

Mechanic - Evgeni Popov
Mechanic Evgeni Popov
Night Auditor - Emily Flores
Night Auditor Emily Flores


 

Staff Captain - Damir Kurilic
Staff Captain Damir Kurilic

 

The sailing ended with a spectacular show in the Regatta Lounge, after which the entire crew paraded into the lounge to join guests in a final celebration. It was truly a historic and unforgettable 10th anniversary sailing – a wonderful celebration of the past 10 years at sea and the perfect way to kick off the next decade to come!

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July 7, 2013

ANNIVERSARY SAILING CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SPECTACULAR DESTINATIONS AND FINE CUISINE

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Greetings from the Italian Escapade sailing onboard Riviera and the ongoing celebration of Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary. It has been a wonderful cruise so far, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet many of our past and first time guests. I couldn’t be more proud of the officers and crew who continue to make everyone onboard a part of the Oceania Cruises family.

DSCN1004-2Oceania Cruises was founded on the vision of a group of people with a passion for spectacular destinations and fine cuisine, and we are enjoying both as part of this anniversary sailing. In celebration of 10 years of culinary delights, Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti and Bon Appétit Culinary Center Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly hosted a culinary demonstration. I welcomed guests to the event and shared a bit about the culinary history of Oceania Cruises before turning it over to the experts to share some of the secrets behind our exquisite cuisine.

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As we were celebrating 10 years at sea, it seemed appropriate that the chefs would prepare dishes from the sea. They demonstrated three guest favorites: Salmon Gravlax with Cucumber Salad, Poached Halibut with Lemon Cream Cuisson on a Quinoa Cake, and the ever-popular Red Ginger specialty – Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass. It was both educational and heartwarming to see Chef Quaretti and Chef Kelly, two special members of the Oceania Cruises family, working together to share their knowledge with our guests and illustrating one of the reasons that our guests have continued to return to us for the past 10 years: the finest cuisine at sea prepared by some of the most talented – and entertaining – chefs in the culinary world.

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Soon after the demonstration, Riviera dropped anchor in Sorrento with the impressive Mount Vesuvius looming in the background. Situated on a terrace overlooking the splendid Amalfi coastline, Sorrento is imbued with charm and echoes of the ancient past.

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There are a number of appealing ways to spend a day in Sorrento, from going to see the ruins of ancient Pompeii to visiting the Blue Grotto in Capri to simply walking around the rustic, sun-drenched town of Sorrento. The Blue Grotto was on the bucket list of many guests, so a group of us boarded a ferry and headed to Capri for the afternoon.

The grotto is a uniquely beautiful sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri. A small opening in the cave at the surface of the water and a larger opening beneath the surface provide the only light sources. We entered the grotto through the small opening, just large enough for a rowboat to pass through. Inside the cavern itself was dark, but the water was illuminated with a brilliant blue glow. The effect was absolutely dazzling. It’s difficult to fully capture the beauty of the experience in a photograph, so if you haven’t visited the Blue Grotto, I highly recommend you add it to your own bucket list.

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After a spectacular day in Sorrento, we returned to the ship and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Jacques. Then everyone gathered on the pool deck for a sail away party.

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Cruise Director Leslie Jon was emcee of the event, and General Manager Thierry Tholon led the entire crew in a parade around the decks. This was truly an emotional evening as the officers and crew of Riviera celebrated Oceania Cruises' 10th anniversary with our cherished guests.

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I look forward to more celebrations with our guests, officers and crew, and I’ll share further stories here on the blog as our Italian Escapade continues.

June 11, 2013

A DAY IN DUBLIN

Marina just made her first stop in Dublin for the summer season, which inspired me to pull out photos of my recent trip to Dublin as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises. If you haven’t been, there are several opportunities on sailings this summer and next, and I highly recommend exploring this wonderful city steeped in history.

If you select a sailing with an overnight stay in Dublin, you might spend some time exploring the beautiful Irish countryside. While some decry Ireland’s frequent rains, the reward is lush green hills, verdant pastures and the iconic rainbows – often they even come in pairs! 

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Despite the amount of rainfall, Ireland also gets plenty of sunshine, and I enjoyed a beautiful sunny day during my visit to Dublin. With its heart on its sleeve, Dublin doesn’t pretend or try to be something it is not. Everywhere I looked I saw its jovial spirit written on the faces of its residents, its spirituality exuding from the many churches, its conviviality embodied in the pub culture, and its ancient and modern history harmoniously situated side by side throughout the city.

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One of the nice things about Dublin is that many of the major landmarks can be found along the River Liffey, so I was able to see quite a few sights by meandering parallel to the river for a mile or so.

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I started the day with a jaunt through St. Stephen’s Green. An oasis from the hustle and bustle of urban life, this is one of the larger city parks, covering 22 acres. With more than two miles of walking trails and a faithful adherence to its original Victorian layout, the park is a wonderful example of this country’s passion for landscape design.

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After a quiet walk in the park, I headed a few blocks north to visit Trinity College. A highlight of any trip to Dublin is a stop at Trinity College Library, which displays the original Book of Kells. It is said that the Irish “saved civilization” when Celtic monks set about meticulously copying the books that were being destroyed across Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Thought to have been created in the ninth century, the Book of Kells is an immaculately preserved, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels. Written in Latin, the calligraphy of the text is itself a work of art, and the intricacy of the colorful illustrations is astounding. The book is in a locked display case, so only two pages are viewable, but these are certainly worth seeing. Replicas of other pages are on display along with a treasure trove of other ancient works. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed, so you’ll have to visit Dublin and see this magnificent book for yourself.

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Trinity College

Book of Kells Museum

Continuing along the river, my next stop was the Temple Bar District, which is located on the south bank. It is a unique neighborhood in that it has preserved its medieval street pattern, with narrow cobblestone streets that are lined with galleries, boutiques and, of course, a famous pub or two.

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Just south of the Temple Bar District is Dublin Castle, the prestigious city center, which has been continuously occupied since it was built in 1204. Situated on 11 acres, the site includes two museums, two cafés, an international conference center, two gardens, government buildings and the State Apartments. With so much to see, I was not able to spend nearly as much time here as I wanted, thus giving me ample reason to return as soon as possible!

Bedford Tower of Dublin Castle

Religion is a huge part of this country’s history and culture, so there are numerous churches in Dublin, each one more striking than the last. In fact, the city has two medieval churches that have shared status as cathedrals of the Church of Ireland, an arrangement nearly unprecedented in history. Christ Church Cathedral is an impressive structure founded in 1030 by the Norse King Sitriuc Silkenbeard.

Christ Church Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been at the heart of Ireland’s history and culture since it achieved cathedral status in the early 13th century. The largest cathedral in the country, it has been visited by many of Irish history’s important dignitaries and is also the final resting place of Jonathan Swift.

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The Dublin sunset made an especially lovely backdrop for the city’s churches as well as its more modern facades and bustling streets. As evening approached, I decided it was time to stop for a pint of Guinness (or maybe two) and a classic Irish meal.

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Dating to 1198, The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub. Here you may sip a pint in the exact same spot as James Joyce, Jonathan Swift or Michael Collins. Guinness is not only a delicious beverage but also a fabulous cooking stock, as I discovered in a stew made with beef, mushrooms and onions in a Guinness and thyme sauce served in Yorkshire pudding. You can also enjoy a traditional Irish stew with chunks of lamb, vegetables and potatoes, as well as several other classic Irish dishes. And of course, everything comes with potatoes!

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After dinner and a pint, I headed to the famous Grafton Street to share the remainder of my time with the lively crowds. The city is an open book, and in only one day I was able to enjoy a fascinating look at the history and culture of Ireland. I hope you will be able to do so as well on one of Oceania Cruises’ upcoming sailings!

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2013 sailings to Dublin include:

2014 sailings to Dublin include:

*includes overnight stay in Dublin

June 6, 2013

ICONS OF THE ETERNAL CITY

Today both Nautica and Riviera are in Civitavecchia – the gateway to Rome. Traveling just an hour or so inland takes you to the Eternal City and all of its legends and wonders. Western society is rife with images that give us a notion of the grandeur of Rome, but until you visit, it’s difficult to truly conceive the immensity of the city.

Amidst the classical architecture and ancient relics sprout the trappings of modern man, from high-end fashion boutiques to souvenir shops selling aprons that make you resemble a gladiator. This mélange draws criticism from some visitors, but I actually feel a relative sense of harmony in the city considering its vastness. I enjoy grabbing a gelato and then rounding the corner onto a 17th century piazza that transports me back in time – or a forum more than two thousand years old that takes me back much further.

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I recently returned to Rome as Blogger-at-Large, and because I had already seen many of the historic monuments, I had a simpler plan this time: espresso, pasta, vino, gelato. But despite my intent to focus on culinary culture, and despite the rain that assured me this was a wise decision, I found myself drawn back to the city’s landmarks for another look. It just didn’t seem right to go to Rome without strolling by the Colosseum and tossing a coin in Trevi Fountain. This trip confirmed that, no matter how many times I visit Rome, I will always be awed by its icons, learn more of its history and discover new wonders.

On this trip I joined the Oceania Cruises excursion Rome on Your Own, which was great for those who have visited before. It provided transportation from the ship to the city and back, with the added benefit of an informative guide along the way who shared historical facts, helpful tips and a well-marked city map.

We were dropped off at the Piazza del Popolo, a large, impressive square that was a great starting point because from here Via del Corso led right into the heart of the city. Several of Rome’s most famous monuments are within blocks of this main street.

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The fact that I wanted to visit some landmarks did not deter me from my original plan, and I began the day with a delicious cappuccino. Buoyed with espresso, I set off for Trevi Fountain, passing by the famed Spanish Steps during the first of several rain showers that day. Like the horses pulling the carriages, I donned my rain gear and forged ahead. The famed Trevi Fountain had to be my first stop so that I didn’t miss the chance to toss in a coin to ensure that I would return to Rome again.

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Trevi Fountaoin and LPF Spanish Steps

After tossing the requisite coin and taking a few minutes to gaze at the majestic fountain, I headed for the Pantheon. Once a temple to the Roman gods and now a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs, it is the best preserved ancient building in Rome. While hardly visible from the front of the Pantheon, its dome is one of the most impressive features. To this day it is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Its oculus is completely open, acting as the only source of natural light and also allowing in rain. It was remarkable to see the sunlight and showers falling from the heavens into the center of the church.

Pantheon panorama

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Pantheon Alter

Pantheon Inside

As I left the Pantheon, I was pleased to see it was time for lunch. On to the pasta and vino part of my plan! The Piazza della Rotunda in front of the Pantheon is surrounded by cafés, which one might assume are tourist traps because of their location. But while the prices may be a bit higher than a restaurant off the beaten path, the food I had there was delicious. And I was happy to pay a little extra for the view!

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I’ve eaten twice at the café on the southwest corner of the square, and I confess I had the lasagna both times. If you like your lasagna with béchamel sauce, then the lasagna in Toscana onboard the ship can compete with just about anything shoreside. But while I love a good béchamel, I sometimes prefer to forgo the milk and butter in favor of a hearty tomato sauce in its purest form, and in that case, the best I’ve ever had was at the café on Piazza della Rotunda. If you’re in the mood for a white sauce, try the gnocchi with arugula and prosciutto, which is divine!

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Having checked the pasta and vino off my list, I wandered for a bit and stumbled upon the lovely Piazza Navona with the Sant’Agnese in Agone church and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini, arguably Rome’s greatest achievement in the fountain genre.

Piazza Navona Sant'agnese in Agone church

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I continued south again and arrived at a work that is modern architecture by Roman standards, the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. This monument has met with some controversy since its inauguration in 1911 because an area of Capitoline Hill was destroyed to create it.

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

The Cordonata, a grand staircase designed by Michelangelo, led to the Piazza del Campidoglio atop Capitoline Hill, the smallest but most famous of the seven hills of Rome and the origin of the English word, “capitol.” Once the site of Rome’s holiest temples, the hill fell into ruin in the Middle Ages. Michelangelo was asked to redesign this ancient square in the 16th century, including the Palazzo Senatorio, which is now the city hall and is flanked by the impressive Capitoline museums.

Piazza del Campidoglio

At the base of the hill, I could see the Roman Forum, once the economic, political and religious center of Rome and home to some of the most ancient and renowned excavations in the city. Just beyond the Forum stood the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in the world and the most recognized landmark in Rome. Coming from a country just a couple centuries old, I could hardly conceive of a structure that had been standing for a couple millennia, surviving both natural disasters and human plundering.

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Colosseum close

This iconic monument seemed an appropriate place to conclude my day and head back to meet the coach. I grabbed a gelato on the way and completed my culinary tour along with my historic one. I only hope that the legend of Trevi Fountain is indeed true, and that my coin will ensure that I return to this great city again!

April 26, 2013

50 DAYS AT SEA FOR 50 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

A few days ago I received an email from Peter and Pauline Pretty, loyal Oceania Cruises guests from Oakville, Ontario, sharing several photos from their 50-day Grand Voyage to celebrate 50 years of marriage. You may remember the Prettys from a previous blog post I wrote on their South Pacific cruise or from the article in the January 2013 Your World Your Way brochure. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share their wonderful photos as well as congratulate them on this amazing milestone.

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The Prettys feel at home on the ships of Oceania Cruises, one of the many reasons they return year after year, and celebrating such an important anniversary did not go unnoticed on this momentous sailing. Nautica General Manager Jason Gelineau arranged a special celebration at the Polo Grill, Pauline’s favorite restaurant, and the social director, Emmanuelle, serenaded the couple.

Of course, the best part of the Grand Voyage for these adventurers was the nearly two months spent exploring Africa and Asia onboard Nautica. As Nautica prepares to sail for Europe for the summer, the Prettys’ stories provide a lovely recap of some of the highlights of a wonderful winter season.

The Prettys got a feel for the history and culture of Mozambique during a tour of its capital on the Discover Maputo shore excursion. Stops included the Central Train Station designed by Gustav Eiffel, famous for conceiving the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and also the Museum of Natural History, Independence Square and City Hall. Highlights for the Prettys were the opportunity to observe semi-wild lemurs and a visit to a local market where they shared a moment with these adorable kids.

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In Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Prettys took the Ingiriya Tea Plantation shore excursion, where they got an insider’s look at how Sri Lanka’s most important cash crop is cultivated. They watched harvesters pick the fresh tea leaves – 65 to 75 pounds a day are collected – and saw how the leaves are processed. Afterward they enjoyed a freshly brewed cup of tea and were able to purchase some to bring home.

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The Prettys frequently enjoyed tea onboard the ship as well because afternoon tea is one of Pauline’s favorite activities. Longer voyages provide the chefs the time to really flex their creative muscles and create an extraordinary event even more splendid than the traditional teatime – the Grand Gala Tea Party. The pastries and cakes were not only beautiful to look at but scrumptious too. Jason and Emmanuelle were among the crew members who were in attendance to celebrate the special occasion.

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Back ashore on the Scenic Phuket & Elephant Camp excursion, the Prettys had the chance to ride an elephant after enjoying an impressive show put on by the elephants and their handlers. In this photo the elephant is hoping that the Prettys will tip with bananas.

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As a contrast to their adventures in the countryside, the Prettys also visited some of Asia’s grandest cities. Known as the “Garden City,” Kuala Lumpur is a modern urban environment with an abundance of greenery and beautifully landscaped parks. The Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, are an indelible feature of the city’s skyline.

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The Prettys also enjoyed a day exploring Singapore and the truly unique modern landscape.

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We’re so pleased the Prettys shared their photos and these wonderful highlights of Nautica’s season in Africa and Asia. If their adventures have inspired you, now is the perfect time to reserve a voyage for next season. Nautica will be back in Africa starting in December with Lands of Grandeur, and then in Asia starting in February with Pagodas & Palaces.

A special thanks to Peter and Pauline for sharing this special occasion with us, and congratulations on 50 years of marriage!

 

April 1, 2013

ANTIGUA: A BEACH FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

Named by Christopher Columbus after Santa Maria la Antigua, the island of Antigua was first colonized by Christopher Codrington in 1632. Long before the English arrived, the island is believed to have been settled around 3100 BC.

Antigua is one of two main islands in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. After the sugar trade began to diminish, these beautiful beaches became the country’s new commodity, and visitors flock from all over the world to thaw out on one of the many pristine beaches on these gorgeous islands. During my last visit to Antigua as Blogger-at-Large, I was only able to visit a couple of these beaches, but I wish I had an entire year to explore them all!

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When visiting Antigua, the ships of Oceania Cruises call on St. John’s, the nation’s capital. One of the first recognizable sights on the city’s skyline is the beautiful white towers of St. John’s Cathedral. After being destroyed in earthquakes in 1683 and 1745, the current incarnation was built in 1845.

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One of the most popular shore excursions from St. John’s is the Champagne & Lobster Catamaran Cruise. This excursion is a wonderful way to visit some of the most idyllic beaches of Antigua – and enjoy a fantastic lunch as well!

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The crew of the catamaran greet guests just a short walk from where the ship is docked. The boat then cruises along the beautiful coastline of Antigua, making a couple of stops at secluded beaches along the way. There are ample opportunities to swim, snorkel, explore or just relax and take in paradise.

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Of course, the highlight of the cruise is lobster fresh off the grill, prepared by the captain and his crew and complemented by a glass of champagne.

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There are several other fabulous shore excursions offered on Antigua as well, including an opportunity to swim with stingrays, a tour of galleries dedicated to local artists and kayaking through the mangroves.

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Nothing cures the winter blues like the blue waters of the Caribbean, and there are several sailings that visit St. John’s in 2013 and 2014. We look forward to seeing you onboard!

March 14, 2013

PUNTA DEL ESTE, CHEF’S PATIO DINNER AND A CAVIAR BRUNCH ONBOARD THE REUNION CRUISE

Greetings from Brazil and the 9th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise. It’s hard to believe there are only 6 days left, and we still get to visit Porto Belo, São Paulo, Parati, Ilha Grande, Buzios and Rio de Janeiro.

The past few days have been extraordinary and full of wonderful experiences. On Saturday we visited the delightful city of Punta del Este, or the “Peninsula of the East,” where several of our Reunion Cruise guests took the exclusive shore excursion The Iconic Art & Flavor of Punta del Este. This lovely city on a scenic peninsula is known for its beautiful beaches. We started the day at Brava Beach where there is an open-air collection of sculptures, including the famous Mano de Desierto, or “Hand of the Desert,” by Mario Irarrázabal.

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Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis at Mano de Desierto

Our next stop was the Ralli Museum, which has several galleries all over the world. The first was established here in Punta del Este in 1988; the second in Santiago, Chile, in 1992; the third (Ralli 1) in Caesarea, Israel, in 1993; the fourth in Marbella, Spain, in 2000; and the fifth (Ralli 2) in Caesarea, Israel, in 2007. The Ralli Museums house one of the most important collections of contemporary Latin American art in the world.

Ralli Museum

Then we moved on to the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by renowned artist Pablo Atchugarry in 2007 to promote visual arts, literature, music and other creative pursuits. Atchugarry, a prolific artist, began sculpting when he was only eight years old and had his first show at age 11.

Before the end of the tour, we stopped for lunch at Finca Narbona, where we ate wonderful locally made cheeses and fresh cold cuts and enjoyed some delicious wines. Punta del Este is one of my favorite stops so far!

The following evening, we had a special Reunion Cruise Chef's Patio Dinner for a few of our guests who have sailed with us the most. It was hosted by Senior Vice President of Sales Michael Hirsch, Oceania Club Ambassador Cary Arias, Chief Purser Gurdep Besla, Human Resources Manager Maria Cormane and myself. The six-course meal was selected by Executive Chef Lisa Anne Jones and prepared by Sous Chef Thorsten Czap. We started with a crispy polenta with olive tapenade and cherry tomato confit, followed by a main course of either Chilean sea bass with palmito salad or roast veal rack with rosemary and glazed vegetables.

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The dessert, chosen especially to celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary, was a Manjari chocolate bar with milky yuzu-flavored gianduja chocolate and hazelnut croquant. Everything was incredible. It was an evening to remember!

The next day we had another very special event – a caviar brunch in the Grand Dining Room. Everyone onboard had an opportunity to enjoy this delicious feast. There was a full brunch menu, including caviar, as well as complimentary mimosas and Bloody Marys. If you are on a Reunion Cruise in the future, I highly recommend attending this event. Everyone had a wonderful time!

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Later that morning there was a one-hour Town Hall Meeting for guests that was hosted by Michael Hirsch, General Manager Carlo Gunetti and yours truly. The turn-out was great, with more than 100 guests in attendance. Cruise Director Leslie Jon moderated the Town Hall and asked our panel a variety of questions based on past guest feedback.

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One request was that I talk about some of the exciting new features in our enhanced Oceania Club loyalty program. The new program started at the beginning of this year with the introduction of a new “Blue” level of membership, plus additional benefits for all existing levels. This information can found in the Oceania Club section of Oceania Cruises’ website, as well as in many of our brochures.

We still have a lot of planned activities for the remainder of the cruise, including an evening pool deck party and an Oceania Club cocktail party. We will also be honoring our 14 Silver level Oceania Club members and 56 Bronze members, 26 of whom will be receiving their Bronze pins! There are still more exciting days to come on the 9th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise!

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!

December 10, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES WINS CRUISE CRITIC AWARDS FOR BEST CUISINE AND BEST SUITES

The 2012 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks were recently announced, and if you’ve ever been onboard an Oceania Cruises ship, you won’t be surprised to learn that Oceania Cruises was chosen for Best Cuisine and Best Suites.

Upon hearing this exciting news, I took a moment to go through the many photos I have taken over the years as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises and select a few of my favorites of the beautiful suites and incredible meals I’ve enjoyed during my adventures onboard the ships. If you’re wondering what inspired the Cruise Critic editors to select Oceania Cruises, here are just a few of the reasons why these awards are so richly deserved.

BEST CUISINE 

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The men behind the menus: Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger (pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large)

GRAND DINING ROOM

One of the sure signs that Oceania Cruises is perfect for foodies is that the Grand Dining Room is just as wonderful as the specialty restaurants. In fact, I’ve spoken with several guests who say it’s their favorite restaurant onboard. The menus change daily, but you will always find European-inspired continental cuisine as well as delicious Canyon Ranch SpaClub® dishes. Here are some photos of a few of my favorite dishes.

GD Zuch
Grilled Turbot with Zucchini and Tomato
GD SHrimp Asp Risotto
Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
 
GD Lobster
Lobster Thermidor 

TOSCANA

As exquisite as The Grand Dining Room is, I highly recommend pulling yourself away for a taste of Tuscan-inspired Italian cuisine at the wonderful Toscana. The simple but elegant ambiance elicits the romance of the Italian countryside, and quite a few of the recipes are inspired by mothers and grandmothers of Oceania Cruises culinary staff. Also, many of the sommeliers are from long lines of wine-producing families, further enhancing the Italian experience.

Italian food is comfort food for me, and Toscana is definitely one of my favorite restaurants – onboard or ashore. I’ve had the privilege of celebrating two birthdays in Toscana, and if I had my choice, I’d celebrate all of them here! Just look at some of the incredible dishes I have enjoyed at Toscana.

 

TOS Octopus
Carpaccio di Polpo con Patate al Vapore e Vinaigrette allo Champagne (Octopus Carpaccio with Champagne Vinaigrette and Warm Potato Salad)
TOS Eggpland
Involtini di Melanzane alla Ghiotta (Sliced Eggplant rolled and sautéed with Roasted Minced Veal Stuffing and Basil, baked in Fresh Tomato Sauce)


TOS Artichoke
Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata e Olio Aromatizzato all’Arugula (Artichoke and Parmesan Cheese Timbale with Black Truffle Sauce and Arugula Infused Oil)
TOSLinguini Cioppino
Linguine Cioppino (Linguini Pasta with Little Neck Clams, Black Mussels, Calamari, Shrimp, and Monk Fish sautéed in a Light Pinot Grigio and Cherry Tomato Sauce)

POLO GRILL

I admit, when writing about my dining experiences, it is almost impossible not to claim that each restaurant is my favorite. If you have dined with Oceania Cruises, I think you know what I mean, and you’ll understand when I say Polo Grill is another one of my favorites. Polo Grill offers the classic steak house experience with time-honored favorites done the way only Oceania Cruises can, perfectly. The steaks are USDA Prime and dry-aged for at least 28 days.

On a recent cruise, we had reservations at Polo Grill for the last night of the voyage, and my friend spent the entire trip in anticipation of devouring the signature 32-ounce prime rib. Some people claim that a steak this size couldn’t possibly be eaten in one sitting, but I have found the person for whom this cut of beef was designed. He savored every bite, and he was the first one to finish his entrée!

For those of us with daintier appetites, there are plenty of options as well. I find the 7-ounce filet mignon is more my size. And if you prefer seafood, Polo Grill has plenty of excellent options. How does Maine lobster with drawn butter, grilled mahi mahi or jumbo shrimp cocktail sound?

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Colossal Chilled Shrimp Trio with Spicy Cocktail Sauce
PG Prime Rib
King’s Cut 32 oz Prime Rib – Bone-in, Seasoned to Perfection, Slow Roasted and Served Medium Rare

TERRACE CAFÉ

If you’re looking for something slightly more casual, or if you just can’t decide what type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, Terrace Café offers a whole array of international selections in a buffet-style setting. The food is just as spectacular, and you can try a little bit of everything! You will find things like Marinated Fennel Salad, Cold Poached Salmon with Herbed Mayonnaise, Breaded Pork Parmigiana and Creamy Carrot and Pumpkin Soup. Onboard Marina and Riviera, there is even a sushi bar, which I try to visit daily. And good luck trying to decide on just one dessert! Whether you choose to dine indoors or alfresco on deck, the views are stunning in every direction.

TC Desserts
Dessert Selection
TC outside
Outside Seating

JACQUES

If you haven’t had a chance to take a voyage onboard Marina or Riviera, I highly recommend you do so. In addition to all of the amazing offerings onboard Regatta and Nautica, you will find two new restaurants, including Master Chef Jacques Pépin’s namesake restaurant. I recently had the pleasure of dining here and can’t say enough about the whole experience. Everything was just perfect, from the classic French cuisine to the charming French bistro ambiance.

Here are some photos of the amazing dishes my husband and I enjoyed on a recent trip:

JA Mussels
Moules Marinières (Fresh Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley)
JA Onion Soup
Gratiné à l’Oignon (Baked Onion Soup with Gruyère Cheese Crust)
JA Chicken
Poulet Fermier Rôti aux Herbes (Herb-crusted Black Foot Free Range Chicken au Jus with Gratin Dauphinois and Haricots Verts)

RED GINGER

The other new restaurant onboard Marina and Riviera is the Asian-inspired Red Ginger. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated, the centerpiece being three gorgeous busts of Buddha, each carved from a single piece of glass and lit from within.

Complimenting the stunning décor is an equally creative menu with contemporary interpretations of Asian classics. Rich, bold flavors are perfectly balanced with delicate subtleties. This is one of the most distinctive and delicious restaurants I have ever experienced, and the moment I finish a meal here I am already hoping for the opportunity to return as soon as possible.

RG Tuna Tataki
Tuna Tataki (Seared Tuna Filet, Shiso Sesame Crust, Wasabi Cream)
RG Lobster
Lobster Pad Thai (Rice Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Lime, Tamarind, Peanuts)
Seafood Stir-fried
Seafood Stir-fried (Scallops, Squid, Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Spring Onions, Ginger)

LA RESERVE

One of my favorite indulgences is dining at La Reserve by Wine Spectator. The restaurant seats only 24 and has an elite spot high atop deck 12. Each course is meticulously created, often before your very eyes, and great care has gone into pairing each dish with the perfect premium wine.

Dining at La Reserve is much more than a meal; it is a special event. When you finish an evening here, you feel like one of the most important and well cared for people on the planet.

LR Short Rib
72-Hour Slow Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi au Jus
LR Cab w Ribs
Paired with Gordon Brothers Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
LR Rasb
Chef making the Raspberry Caramelized Mille Feuille with Madagascan Vanilla Cream
LR Rasb Chat
Paired with Château la Varière, Les Melleresses Bonnezeaux, Loire Valley, France 

BEST SUITES

After a fabulous dinner onboard – and maybe a little dancing at Horizons lounge – there is nothing more perfect than retiring to what Cruise Critic editors called “the most sumptuous suites at sea.”

OWNER’S SUITE

The Owners’ Suites were designed by Susan Bednar Long of New York-based, award-winning Tocar Interior Design and are completely furnished with Ralph Lauren Home Collection. Feeling almost as big as my house, the closets are one of my favorite parts!

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OS 3 OS 4 OS 6

VISTA SUITES

When Marina first debuted, I had the great privilege of spending time in the suites with a few honored guests, including Dakota Jackson, the renowned American designer who created the Vista Suites.

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Dakota Jackson pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large

If you like to know where the ship is heading, you may prefer the view from these suites, which overlook the bow of the ship.

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OCEANIA SUITES

Oceania Suites, also designed by Dakota Jackson, are so large you can comfortably host a cocktail party – and they even have the bar for it! Or, if you prefer, make it a quiet night and relax in the whirlpool tub on the veranda.

OST 5 OST 4

OST 2 OST 3

PENTHOUSE SUITES

Penthouse Suites are the smallest of the suites, but small is a relative term! Walk-in closets, marble and granite bathrooms, spacious and comfortable living quarters – one guest told me these suites were her favorite place onboard Marina.

One of the things I enjoy most onboard Oceania Cruises ships is lounging in the beautiful bathtubs. This is just one of many amenities that distinguishes Oceania Cruises suites, and on Marina and Riviera, bathtubs are also featured in most staterooms. There is a shower wand in the bath tub as well as a completely separate rainfall shower.

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With the perfect accommodations and the ultimate cuisine, Oceania Cruises offers an unrivaled cruising experience at an extraordinary value. Some may say that I’m biased, but the editors at Cruise Critic have confirmed what I’ve known for some time: Oceania Cruises truly stands head and shoulders above the rest!

August 30, 2012

A TRIP BACK IN TIME IN TALLINN

IMG_4412 Armor w Oceania SignvcOn Marina’s recent stop in Estonia, guests visiting the Old Town at the heart of Tallinn were greeted appropriately by this knight in (not so) shining armor. On the UNESCO World Heritage list, Tallinn is considered one of the best-preserved medieval town centers in Europe. With cobblestone streets and beautifully preserved buildings dating from the 11th century and earlier, it is easy to be transported to a different time.

Many of the state buildings, churches and original residences date from the medieval period and have been preserved in their basic original form. The cobbled square has been at the heart of Tallinn life since the 11th century and is dominated by one of the most famous symbols of Tallinn, the Gothic town hall, dating from the early 14th century. The town hall has been meticulously preserved down to the ornate dragon rainspouts. 

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IMG_4569 Dragon Water Spouts

A particularly delightful aspect of the Old Town is the little shops and open-air markets where visitors can buy local handmade crafts like these hand-knitted sweaters and pullovers with traditional Estonian folk patterns and these souvenir bells with hand-painted scenes of Tallinn.

IMG_4630 IMG_4409 Souvenirs

One of the more popular attractions in Old Town is the 19th century Russian Orthodox cathedral, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Slightly out of place in this medieval city, it has been viewed by locals as a symbol of Estonia’s history of oppression and was nearly torn down in 1924 during a brief period of independence. After neglect during Soviet rule, the Cathedral was restored to its former beauty and now this classic onion-domed cathedral serves as one of Tallinn’s more famous tourist icons.

IMG_4399vcA Nevsky Cathedral

To get above the scene, guests visited Toompea Castle atop Toompea Hill. The original wood structure was built in the 9th century, and the stone structure was added in the Middle Ages. Substantially reconstructed over the years, it still retains its original shape and currently is home to the Estonian Parliament. Near the castle, there were archery pits set up for visitors to take target practice, offering insight into the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere of this region, for how often does one find weapons available for public use in close proximity to a government building?

IMG_4393 Toompea Castlevc IMG_4506vc Archery Pits Toompea Castle

The views from Toompea Hill of the Old Town and its beautiful colorful buildings with red roofs were gorgeous on an equally gorgeous day.

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Guests also visited the oldest church in Tallinn and mainland Estonia, Toomkirk, also called St. Mary’s Cathedral. Originally a Catholic cathedral, it became Lutheran in the 1500s and now belongs to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Established in the 13th century by the Danes, the Baroque dome was not added until the 18th century. Over a hundred medieval coats of arms line the interior walls of the church.

IMG_4424St Mary's Toomkirk Churchvc IMG_4451 Church Interior

No trip back to medieval times would be complete without fire breathing and a meal inspired by ancient history. At Old Hansa Restaurant, guests are treated to a medieval-themed experience with servers in medieval dress and music and entertainment from centuries ago. The food was simple and delicious: fresh baked bread, Hansa House smoked herring, juniper cheese spread and dark honey beer in a big ceramic tankard (what Old Hansa calls women’s size!).

IMG_4601 Fire Breather IMG_4611 Food

Tallinn was a lovely escape into the past, made all the more wonderful when Marina guests returned to their thoroughly modern, immensely comfortable home on the sea.

 

Photos by Vanessa Cordo

July 26, 2012

FRANCE VERSUS ITALY: Cooking and Comedy with the Chefs of Oceania Cruises

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The culinary team with Frank Del Rio, founder and chairman of Oceania Cruises.

Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that our chefs are serious about cuisine. But did you know they can be funny about it too? Culinary demonstrations are offered onboard all of Oceania Cruises’ ships, and as Blogger-at-Large, I had the chance to attend one recently. It would be difficult to say which I enjoyed more – the cooking or the comedy.

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France v. Italy: Chef Garanger on the left and Chef Gjoka on the right.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger is one of the “head honchos” of Oceania Cruises’ culinary team and has created many of the recipes served onboard. And he’s French. Executive Chef Alban Gjoka, one of the culinary experts onboard Riviera, is Italian. The two of them decided it might be fun to engage in their ongoing friendly rivalry during a culinary demonstration that they called “France versus Italy.”

Chef Garanger became known for his mashed potatoes at age 17 when he was charged with making lunch for Sébastien Bonsignore, the last working disciple of the legendary chef Escoffier. Bonsignore described Garanger’s mashed potatoes as the best he’d ever eaten. Not surprisingly, Chef Gjoka’s specialty is fresh pasta dishes.

 

But first thing’s first. They begin by pouring the champagne.

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Once properly hydrated, Gjoka starts the demonstration by recommending Tipo 00 flour for the pasta. The flour is Italian, but Gjoka tells us we can buy it in the U.S. because the Italians actually produce and export things – unlike the French. The game is on.

Gjoka uses precisely measured flour and semolina but quickly adds that, “In Italy the recipes are good, but it’s just a guideline. Everybody cooks with the heart.”

“You cook with the heart?” Garanger asks.

“Yes.”

“I try to cook with my brain.”

Undaunted, Gjoka continues, adding eggs to the flour. But he checks the eggs before cracking them, informing us that when he and Garanger cook together, Garanger sometimes replaces them with hard-boiled eggs.

“Sabotage,” Garanger whispers, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He then artfully changes the subject by announcing, “So, potatoes!”

Culinary Demonstration01Culinary Demonstration02

Culinary Demonstration20Garanger started cooking the potatoes before the demonstration, and they are ready for the next step. “Very important…how do I strain my potatoes? I can use this one, the one from Italy?” he asks, requesting to borrow Gjoka’s ricer.

“No problem. We are good neighbors,” Gjoka says, but we all know he has another comment up his sleeve. “We are so good that we even gave you the wife of the former president.”

“You can have her back now. We don’t need her anymore,” Garanger responds, referring to Sarkozy’s election defeat.

“No, no you always need Italian women. It was another one that taught the French, Catherine
de Medici,” Gjoka fires back.

“Yes, because the Italians, they believe that Catherine de Medici, when she came to France, we were eating with the Huns, and she taught us how to use a fork and knife.” Garanger clearly disagrees with this Italian perspective, so he tosses out another zinger. “What can I say? The Italian girls fall in love with the French. Instead of cooking with your heart, you should use your heart for something else.”

Culinary Demonstration19

Amazingly, these gifted chefs are capable of cracking jokes and working their magic at the same time. Because pasta dough needs to rest, Gjoka has prepared some in advance, which he now feeds through a pasta machine. He confides that his grandmother considers this cheating, but he finds the machine useful. You must pass the pasta through at least 10 times, folding and turning it each time and working from level 10 down to level 2. I have the utmost respect for Gjoka’s grandmother, because I certainly wouldn’t want to do this process by hand!

 

Culinary Demonstration15Garanger has strained the potatoes and is letting them sit so the steam can evaporate. Meanwhile, he turns to his entrée, a zucchini-wrapped chicken breast. For the stuffing, he sweats some onions and then adds garlic, diced tomatoes and green olives.

While the stuffing simmers, Garanger begins to work the potatoes, putting them on the stove so the heat can release any remaining steam. When the potatoes are dry, he gradually adds some cream and milk and a touch of nutmeg while he continues to stir.

 

 

Culinary Demonstration13Meanwhile, Gjoka is now cutting cappellini and preparing to make pappardelle and fettuccine. As he works, Gjoka eyes Garanger, who has moved on to his chicken and is pounding it flat. “The chicken is French, and look how he’s beating it,” Gjoka says. “Imagine if the chicken was Italian what he would do.”

Rather than retort, Garanger lowers his voice. As if there were a chance Gjoka might not hear, he very quietly shares that he is layering the chicken with sliced zucchini and (blasphemy!) Parmesan cheese.

 

Culinary Demonstration23He quickly justifies his usage of Italian cheese by saying that it’s fine to cook with. But in France, the cheese is so good it is served as its own course.

Gjoka just smiles and moves on to his ravioli and tortelloni.

Garanger puts the chicken in the oven to roast. He is now ready for the final touches on the potatoes, but he looks concerned. He asks Gjoka if they have enough butter.

“I make sure we have enough,” Gjoka assures him. “One kilo of potato, five kilo of butter.”

The audience laughs, but Garanger seems to consider this a reasonable amount. “That’s good,” he says, taking another sip of champagne.

As far as Garanger is concerned, this is the moment of truth. “Now that I have the potatoes almost the consistency I want, I have to start to put in a little butter. You start to add the butter little by little and whisk it in. It requires a lot of work with your arms, the mashed potatoes.”

At this point, he adds so much butter that the audience literally gasps.

Garanger looks at all of us as if to say, “What? You expect me to make mashed potatoes without butter?”

It is now obvious to him that none of us know a thing about mashed potatoes. “Listen!” he exclaims. “Very important. Minimum, minimum, minimum, minimum is three part of potatoes, one part of butter. Me, I put two for one.”

To which Gjoka responds, “And afterwards you go straight for a heart check-up.”

Garanger dismisses Gjoka. “No, because you do not need to eat a lot.”

Aaaaahh, there’s the rub. He plans to present us with all this buttery goodness and then insist on portion control. Clearly, Garanger is not aware that we’re all on vacation.

Culinary Demonstration27Gjoka somehow manages to distract us from the butter extravaganza and turn our attention back to the pasta. His selling point is that, unlike the French, the Italians cook very fast. Garanger started cooking at 11am and two hours later hasn’t even finished the potatoes. “Imagine if you had 50 people at home,” says Gjoka. “You need to start a week in advance.”

“It all depends who you invite,” Garanger argues.

“Yes,” Gjoka agrees. “If it is my mother I have at home, I make the risotto in 5 to 10 minutes. But if it is my mother-in-law, I need 45 minutes to 1 hour. You know why? Because I don’t need to talk to her.”

The audience roars at this joke, but Garanger looks indignant. "This is supposed to be my joke. He stole my joke.”

Gjoka tries to distract him, “I think you need some more butter.”

“Okay, one more little piece,” Garanger is easily drawn back to his masterpiece.

The potatoes are now ready to be tasted. Garanger scoops up a spoonful and turns to Gjoka, “Find me an Italian chef that makes mashed potatoes like this.”

“Actually, I can’t, because you know why? Because they are not mashed potatoes. This is butter mousseline with potato,” Gjoka shoots back.

But ultimately Gjoka has to concede, “It’s true. It’s very, very good.”

Culinary Demonstration31 copyFinally, it is our turn to try the potatoes, and we quickly realize Gjoka was right. These are not mashed potatoes, at least not the chunky, bland mashed potatoes that certain family members, who shall remain unnamed, served me in my youth. If ever there were a vegetable meant for butter, it is clearly the potato, because this is how potatoes were born to be served. Each bite melts in my mouth and fills it with warm, rich potato deliciousness. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t even taste like butter; it just tastes like the best darn potato you’ve ever had in your life.

But remember, we “do not need to eat a lot.”

Gjoka realizes he is losing us as we all swoon under the influence of Garanger’s potato glory. He tries to break the spell with a word of warning, “All these people who tried the mashed potatoes should go to the gym at least 15 minutes today.”

But his efforts are futile because he knows we would all happily climb on a stairmaster. These potatoes are worth every calorie we have to work off.

Culinary Demonstration25Garanger has no time for compliments because he is making the Kalamata olive sauce for the chicken, which we’ve all momentarily forgotten about. He announces he’ll be ready in 10 minutes, and Gjoka rallies, saying he can make 10 more dishes in that amount of time. He starts a fresh tomato pasta.

Garanger raises his eyebrows as Gjoka adds garlic. “That much garlic for one portion? Whew!”

“Yes, it’s healthy.”

“It smells bad, but it’s healthy… Don’t put garlic in my mashed potatoes,” Garanger warns anyone within ear shot.

“Don’t worry. I will not put healthy stuff in your mashed potatoes,” Gjoka promises.

The chicken is ready, and Garanger presents it with the sauce and a side of mashed potatoes, “Eh, voila!”

Culinary Demonstration28

Gjoka is proudly making his third dish – fettuccine with scampi. “And this is called productivity,” he says.

Culinary Demonstration29 Culinary Demonstration30

Gjoka brings his point home by counting his dishes: “One, two, three.” He counts Garanger’s: “One.”

Garanger smiles. “But, is it better to do one perfect or three average?”

Garanger gets the last word, but as we all gather around to try the dishes, Gjoka’s pastas are getting just as many oohs and ahs as Garanger’s potatoes. And I have to admit, there is an advantage to delicious dishes that one could prepare in a few minutes on any given evening, versus Garanger’s more labor-intensive recipes.

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So who won, France or Italy? Call me spineless, but I’m calling it a draw.

 

May 30, 2012

MEMENTOS OF THE JACQUES PEPIN CRUISE ONBOARD MARINA

Jacques & CaptainCaptain Giulio Ressa and Jacques Pépin

One of Oceania Cruises' most popular Signature Sailings, the recent Jacques Pépin Cruise onboard Marina was a resounding success. Guests on the Tuscan Artistry cruise from Barcelona to Rome were treated to special lectures, cooking demonstrations and shore excursions with Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director, world-renowned Master Chef Jacques Pépin.

J&J Cooking Demo 1
Jacques wasn’t the only culinary superstar onboard. He was joined by his best friend of more than 50 years, fellow chef Jean-Claude Szurdak. The two have known each other since 1956, when they were cooking together for French heads of state. Jean-Claude lent his expertise to the culinary demonstrations, and the friendly banter between him and Jacques made the demonstrations all the more entertaining.

Susie, Noelle, Jacques & Gloria at Chateau EzeCulinary luminary Susie Heller (far left) is also a long-time friend and colleague of Jacques, having produced several of his television shows. She has served as producer for several cookbooks as well, including Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook and Oceania Cruises’ own culinary lifestyle book, Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises. Heller accompanied Jacques and his guests on some of the exclusive culinary excursions offered as part of this cruise.

While a cruise named Tuscan Artistry would obviously include Italian ports of call, this sailing began by visiting some beautiful coastal towns in Jacques’ native France. Pépin, Heller and Chef Noelle Barille of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center hosted a lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant of Chateau Eza, one of the most stunning hotels on the French Riviera. Guests enjoyed exquisite cuisine, fine wines and beautiful views of the Cote d'Azur. They also got to shop the local spice market.Spice Market in Ezed
Gloria and Jacques out for a walkWhile in Provence, Jacques and his wife, Gloria, enjoyed a stroll through the charming village of Cassis, which lies about 20 miles southeast of Marseille. Lunch in Cassis

They couldn’t miss sampling some of the local fare, which of course included fresh seafood from this Mediterranean fishing village. The area is also known for its white wines and produces some lovely rosés as well.

The local rose
While there was fantastic local cuisine to be tasted at every port of call, Pépin also enjoyed the culinary delights onboard, which is no surprise considering that the first restaurant to ever bear his name is found onboard Marina! There is a portrait of Pépin at the entrance to the restaurant, which is known simply as Jacques.

JC, Jacques and - who's that guy in the picture
Pumpkin Soup at Jacques
Also recently unveiled onboard Riviera, Jacques features fresh interpretations of French culinary classics. Succulent rotisserie meats, escargot, bouillabaisse…all of the French favorites are here. Each is perfectly prepared using only the finest, freshest ingredients, which are the foundation of any fine cuisine, as Pépin is always quick to point out.

The pumpkin soup is one of the most popular dishes, partly because of its wonderful flavor and also because of its brilliant presentation.

You won’t be surprised to hear that, while Pépin greatly enjoys all of the restaurants onboard Marina, Jacques is his personal favorite. We won’t hold his bias against him.

If you would like to join Chef Pépin on a Signature Sailing, the next Jacques Pépin Cruise will be onboard Riviera, sailing on September 19, 2013, from Barcelona to Lisbon. Jacques hopes to see you there!

May 13, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO RIVIERA: 3 DAYS TO MAIDEN VOYAGE

Tuna

Look what I caught!

Sport fishing is one of my favorite hobbies, and it’s always been a dream of mine to catch a fish this size off the back of the ship. This line-caught yellow fin tuna weighs 80 kilos and was the centerpiece of the Mother’s Day brunch onboard Riviera today.

Gala Brunch09Okay, I confess, it wasn’t my catch, but a guy can dream. And the tuna wasn’t the only catch of the day featured at this gala brunch. There were langoustines, crab legs, linguini with clams, salmon, the finest caviar, and bouillabaisse with shrimp, scallops and mussels. If it lives in the sea, we dined on it today at a celebration in honor of mothers everywhere. We even had World Champion Oyster Shucker Xavier Caille onboard to shuck these beauties.

The culinary team never ceases to amaze me, and today was no exception, especially considering this is the second gala brunch they have prepared in three days. On the day of the christening, we dined on jamon Iberico pata negra and roast suckling pig.

Gala Brunch04

 

It just doesn’t get any better than this, and I can't wait for all of our guests to experience Riviera on her Maiden Voyage, which sails just three days from today!

 

May 10, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO RIVIERA: RIVIERA ARRIVES IN BARCELONA

The countdown to Riviera's Maiden Voyage continues as today Riviera arrived in Barcelona, the city where her godmother, Chef Cat Cora, will name the ship tomorrow in a gala ceremony.

Since we arrived in Valencia yesterday, the celebration of all things Spanish has officially begun. Oceania Cruises President Kunal Kamlani shared this photo of a delicious pan of paella he enjoyed in Valencia, the city where the dish originated.

Valencia Paella

The celebration continued last night with the World Latin Dance Party in Horizons. The bartenders were even decked in Spanish garb.

  Spanish Garb

Meanwhile, Chef Franck Garanger carved the finest Spanish ham, Jamon Iberico Pata Negra, in La Reserve as the senior management team finalized plans for the christening.

Pata Negra

Today Chef Kelly gave me a sneak peek of one of the Culinary Discovery Tours that will launch with Riviera. First we shopped at the Santa Caterina Market. Then we visited a cooking school where we tasted olive oils, learned to make tapas, and enjoyed a wine tasting as well.

I will share photos of our adventures with you soon, but for now I have to run to the flamenco show. The renowned Spanish flamenco group Los Mulero is performing for us onboard. The Spanish celebration promises to continue through tomorrow and Riviera's Christening Ceremony. Check the blog to read about all the festivities!

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!!!

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

 

November 9, 2011

JACQUES SHOWCASES CLASSIC FRENCH CUISINE ONBOARD MARINA

Jacques26

Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that exquisite cuisine is one of our hallmarks. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our onboard restaurants serve only the finest cuisine. Our culinary success can be largely attributed to Vice Chairman Bob Binder, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and to the vision of our Executive Culinary Director, Master Chef Jacques Pépin.

Chef Pépin has been a source of inspiration for our entire culinary team since day one, but his contribution to the organization does not end there. Onboard Marina – and soon Riviera – we proudly feature his first-ever namesake restaurant, Jacques, a charming Parisian-style bistro serving authentic, timeless French classics.

“A brasserie is an intimate restaurant because dining is a very human experience,” says Chef Pépin. “It may be one of the greatest experiences to share food with friends.”

Jacques24

Pépin’s great love of not only fantastic food, but also the dining experience itself, manifests in every detail of Jacques. As one would expect, each course is a culinary masterpiece, but equal attention has also been given to the exquisite design of the chairs and the custom preparation of the bread. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant is very personal, almost as if Pépin has invited you to join him for dinner at his home. Some of the artwork gracing the walls even came from his personal collection.

Jacques22 Jacques03
In the foreword to Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises, Pépin writes, “We have designed the menu and the space itself in the spirit of the great brasseries and bistros of France­ – casual yet with a certain elegance and a dreamlike feeling of entering another time.”

Jacques20

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the pleasure of dining at Jacques, and my only regret is that Jacques is not the corner restaurant down the street from my home. Jacques would always be my choice for celebrations, even if I were simply celebrating the company of good friends. Dining at Jacques is more than just a great meal; it’s an experience.

Jacques04

It goes without saying that an evening at Jacques begins with an excellent bottle of French wine, so without further delay, let’s move on to the cuisine. Chef Pépin’s vision was to offer a taste of classic French dishes, prepared the right way. He says, “This is the kind of ‘perfect meal’ food that satisfies me and makes me happy. It has panache and style, but it’s also familiar and comforting, and I hope that combination makes you happy, too.”

It certainly does. Chef Franck Garanger has collaborated with Pépin to create a menu that is sure to please. The classics are here in abundance, and each dish is masterfully executed, from the escargots to the French onion soup to the pommes frites to the canard à l’orange. The only challenge is to limit yourself to a reasonable number of courses, and the wait staff will be of no assistance there, as they only encourage you to fully indulge your palate’s every desire.

I cleverly resolved my conflict over which entrée to select by ordering one of the entrées as an appetizer—the Coquille Saint-Jacques aux Morilles et Pommes de Terre Fondantes. This delightful dish featured perfectly seared scallops over fondant potatoes that melted in my mouth. The flavor of the morel mushrooms provided the ideal complement.

Jacques14
My husband began with the Escargots à la Bourguignonne. I could barely contain myself long enough to allow him the first taste. The escargots filled my mouth with the rich, buttery flavor that is the essence of French cooking, and I could not resist dipping my baguette in the delicious sauce.

We of course had to try the French onion soup. You won’t be surprised to hear that it was exceptional, and Chef Pépin explains why. “The onion soup is made with real Gruyère, real bread and real stock, seasoned the right way, and served in the right bowl with that little indentation that catches the cheese so it forms a perfect crust in the oven. These small touches add up to a very great difference.”

I can certainly bear witness to the truth of that statement.

Jacques19
We decided to try another classic soup as well, the Soupe de Poisson Marseillaise. This delicious fish soup was served with crisp garlic croutons and rouille sauce on the side, so I could garnish it exactly as I wished. Trusting the chef’s judgment on the portions provided, I decided it would be best to use every bit of the garnish, and I believe I made the correct choice. The flavor profile was both intense and well balanced.

Jacques18


Jacques16For my entrée, I knew from the onset that I would be unable to resist the Homard Thermidor à ma Façon. When it arrived, I recognized at once that it would be everything I had hoped. The lobster was baked in shell in a delectable mushroom cream sauce and served with crispy parmesan. It was both decadent and comforting at the same time.

My husband ordered the Carré de Veau Mariné à la Tapenade from the rotisserie. As if the aromas wafting through Jacques are not enough, the rotisserie is open to view so that the roasting meats can tempt you visually as well. My husband’s inability to resist was duly rewarded. The veal was unbelievably tender and flavorful.

As if all of this were not enough to satiate us, there were also many tantalizing choices available to accompany the entrées. My husband and I were unsuccessful in our attempt to make a modest selection.

It is with a great sense of shame that I confess I simply could not find room for dessert. There was a pastry display at the front of Jacques filled with delectable options, and I’d had grand notions of sampling several. But the side dishes were ultimately my undoing. Had I been able to forego the Gratin Dauphinois, I may have been able to try a dessert, but I have to say the creamy, crispy buttery goodness of those perfectly prepared potatoes was worth the sacrifice.

Jacques21
I guess this means I will be forced to return and sample the pastries another time. Chef Franck Garanger continues to create sumptuous new dishes to feature in Jacques, so I feel obliged to try these as well. I am most definitely up to the task, and I hope the opportunity presents itself very soon.

 

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.

Tuna Tartare Recipe1
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.

DSCF1245
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.

DSCF1238
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...

DSCF1247
Tiger Prawns with Sauce Remoulade

DSCF1249
Pan-Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Mousseline

DSCF1248
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!

 

September 12, 2011

Jacques Pepin Named Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by BU

Don Horner, one of Oceania Cruises' loyal guests and a graduate of Boston University's Metropolitan College (MET), recently shared on Cruise Critic his pleasure in learning that Jacques Pépin was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Boston University.

Please enjoy the article below from the Boston University website, which describes the honor bestowed on Pépin and the many achievements of the famed master chef:

Jacques The acclaimed chef, author, and television personality is being recognized for his contributions to the University, including his role as co-founder (with Julia Child) of the MET master’s program in gastronomy and the certificate program in the culinary arts, which established the tradition of integrating hands-on culinary experience with the serious academic study of cuisine in society. Pépin, who has been a part-time faculty member at MET since 1983, has taught hundreds of Boston University students. He has additionally drawn over ten thousand residents of greater Boston to the University by hosting informal seminars, demonstrations, discussions, and special cooking events through MET’s Lifelong Learning programs. In 2005, MET honored Pépin with the Roger Deveau Memorial Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Award.

Rebecca Alssid, director of Lifelong Learning at MET, says longtime friend and colleague Pépin “epitomizes the best of what a teacher, an artist, and humanist ought to be. He is recognized throughout the world for his culinary skill, his warmth of spirit, and his generosity as an educator and a person.”

Pépin’s career began with his exposure to cooking as a child in his parents’ restaurant, Le Pélican, in Bourg-en-Bresse, France. His training includes a formal apprenticeship at the distinguished Grand Hôtel de l’Europe and training under Lucien Diat at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris. Pépin served as personal chef to three French heads of State; honors conferred by the government of France include Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier de L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole, and in 2004, the National Order of the Legion of Honour. He earned his master’s degree in eighteenth-century French literature from Columbia University.

Pépin’s involvement with MET and BU reflects his accomplished background and his enduring commitment to culinary education. In addition to his many contributions to newspapers and magazines, Pépin has published twenty-six books and hosted eleven public television series, including the recent Jacques Pépin: More Fast Food My Way, which is the companion piece to the book of the same title.

Pépin has established a teaching legacy at MET that approaches cuisine from a perspective in which creativity is enabled by skillfulness, and intellectual curiosity is enabled by practicality. Under his guidance, MET’s gastronomy degree and culinary arts certificate have developed into highly regarded academic and professional credentials.

In response to BU’s announcement of the award, Pépin remarked: “It is a great honor and I am humbled, gratified, and very happy. It validates the work of chefs and the importance of cooking, dining, and sharing food with family and friends. Julia would be very proud.”

Read more about Jacques Pépin’s honorary doctorate on BU Today.

 

 

August 24, 2011

Stuart Gregor's further adventures onboard Marina

Below is another post from Australian journalist, Stuart Gregor, who is currently sailing on Marina:

BORDEAUX AND BEYOND

So we left off somewhere in the west of France. I had not yet fully received my sea legs, but now, some five days later I am a veteran. I even crashed a party last night being hosted for Oceania Club legends who have cruised more than 10 times. Cool group, one day I suspect it will be me entering the main door, not slipping around the back when no one is looking.


Let’s go back to Bordeaux. Stu's lesson for cruising novices: Always check that you have the details of the port right. Saying you are going to dock in Bordeaux is in fact infinitely different from a port about 100km away... as the kids would say, my bad. But all was sorted out, and a day amongst the vines, tasting great wines, is not such a bad way to while away Ascension Day, August 15. Bad luck that, too, lobbing in the world's wine capital on a public holiday . . . and as my seriously good onboard concierge Daniel said, "They take their holidays very seriously in France.” Top day, bought some great wine – in fact two bottles of Comtesse Baron (CH#) from 1999 and 2004 and drank them the next night in the seriously delicious Polo Grill, which is currently leading the field in the "which one of the restaurants is our favourite.” We like them all, of course, but one thing you Americans do really, really well is an upmarket steakhouse.

Polo Grill
Talking of food, we must of course touch upon last Tuesday, one of the most memorable gustatory days of my considerably gustatorial life... lunch at Mugaritz. If Mugaritz means nothing to you, that’s fine but you don’t take food or your restaurants very seriously. Mugaritz is a restaurant in the hills behind San Sebastian. It is owned and run by Andoni Adurriz, a former disciple of the great Ferran Adria at El Bulli. Mugaritz is currently the number three ranked restaurant IN THE WORLD. And we were going... once we found a cab in St Jean de Luz. This was not easy but it added a certain frisson to the day’s adventure. That’s if you consider a frisson a mild, blind panic by an overwrought, overweight and slightly hysterical man, who could see his reservation at THE NUMBER THREE RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD being given away because HE CAN’T FIND A BLOODY CAB IN ST. JEAN DE LUZ. It came, of course, with enough time in the tank to have a quick wander around the streets of San Sebastian. That means of course, we headed for what I straight away declared as the best tapas bar I have ever seen. A quick beer, some anchovies and a bit of drool coming from the mouth at all the spectacular food and divinely rude, but spectacular bartender... I could have stayed all day. However, I had a RESERVATION AT THE NUMBER THREE RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD. So we go to Mugaritz, and it’s a humble brown, brick building surrounded by the most beautiful garden. I am seriously as excited as a grown man could be without his team being in the lead five minutes before full-time in a final. And then they smile, they ask us if we would like to have a drink in the gorgeous terrace, they bring out a bottle of beautiful cava that a friend back home has organised, we start eating, laughing and drinking and so begins one of the greatest lunches of my life. The food? Well it was weird and wacky, some sublime, some confusing, all a sensory challenge. But it was WAY more than food. It was superb and friendly service, it was the sense of whimsy and delight on the plate and in the restaurant, it was the sheer thrill of BEING THERE that made it so wonderful. And the four bottles of wine helped, too. There were four of us, and no that doesn’t include the cava so I guess I should be honest and admit to five...

If someone were to ask me what the highlight was, it was the sense of humour, the great fun we had being invited into the kitchen and talking with Andoni, who of course speaks no English and I speak no Spanish but who cared. We did lots of thumbs up, we had Oswaldo the interpreter and it was brilliant. Bloody brilliant. And the restaurant itself was beautiful, austere but characterful and totally unlike stuffy, formal top restaurants in France. I could go on and on but I fear I have already.

The rest of the day ends in something of a blur. Of course, there was the obligatory sprint (well shuffle/jog) to the tender at St Jean de Luz, another fine meal at Red Ginger with an extra couple of bottles of wine we most definitely did not need, and another encounter with Viya the Ukrainian croupier on the craps table, who by now I am seriously falling deeply in love with. She might be the funniest and shortest croupier on the seas. She reminds me of Natasha in “Boris and Natasha,” and she treats me equally poorly, but I keep coming back for more. Those Ukrainian blokes must live in a constant state of fear if there are more like her around!

The next morning, remarkably, I feel the need to exercise. I have taken on about 15,000 calories the previous day so I hit the treadmill for an hour. There is a fantastic gym on board, I just can’t change the miles to kilometres on the screen, so I go for 5 miles and spend most of the hour multiplying things by 1.6. It’s quite a clever diversion. Anything to keep my mind off the panting and the ugly silhouette.

Bilbao-2
The next day is Bilbao and the Guggenheim. Much has been written about this and I know less about modern art than I do about moderation and abstinence, so suffice to say, it’s a drop-dead wonderful experience. I understood as much about the art as I did most of the dishes at Mugaritz, but I just loved being there all the same and what a building. Great architecture can transform cities. I just wish a few of our local urban planners in Australia would learn that lesson.

Another night onboard and a marvelous, relaxed dinner on the terrace of the Terrace Cafe, just me and the wife, her hair blowing in the breeze. It was almost romantic. As close as an old married couple will get… until she spoils the moment by telling me I have sauce on my face.

La Coruña is next and this is a wonderful city, which I see for exactly 8 minutes as the day is all about golf in the hills at Real Club de La Coruna. Only 15 minutes in a cab from the ship and a glorious morning playing (and winning on the 18th) with a great mate from Oz and a couple called Antonio and Jules. I learnt all sorts of new Spanish words for "fore" and "look out I have a horrible slice" and "I don’t think you should stand there" and "Oh bloody hell Stuart that’s a terrible putt" and "lost" and "trees.” Antonio also lets me know, after he drills a 30-foot putt for a birdie on the 14th that Spanish for birdie is in fact "birdie.” A great day. And much more to share, but Cadiz arrives to my starboard and an afternoon in Seville beckons.

This cruising thing is good.
Real good.
I'll be back for that party real soon...

 

August 19, 2011

Stuart Gregor shares experiences onboard Marina

Born and bred in Sydney, Australia, Stuart Gregor is a well-regarded wine commentator and magazine columnist. He is currently sailing on Marina’s “Tastes of Europe” cruise and has colorful tales to tell of his adventures onboard. Please enjoy the following blog post sharing his experiences during his first cruise with Marina

Confessions of Cruise Virgin

The wife and I are virgins. Well, we were until Wednesday. An odd confession granted, and especially bizarre considering we have two children, but until we walked the gangplank in Dover last week, virgins we were, at least as far as sailing onboard Marina goes.

As we board Marina in Dover there is an undoubted frisson for Sally and I, and this frisson, as we climb the stairs and navigate the corridors to stateroom 9139, is genuine and thrilling. It's a good room, dead posh with a nice verandah, and I am already getting the sense that I will only ever want to travel on ships during their first season. Everything just feels so shiny and new and untouched and well, virginal…

Cruising and I are off to a good start.

Of course everyone else on board appears to be doing something while we merely walk the halls with mouths agape. Everything can look pretty in the brochures, but in real life Polo Grill really does look like a proper American steakhouse, and Jacques really does look like a genuine French restaurant, and check out that sparkly bar near the casino... I can sense I will do some of my best work there later in the trip...

Casino Bar

Night One we dine at Jacques and it is very good indeed, no surprises there. Delicious roast chicken, bountiful and delicious sides, a crackerjack cheese trolley. But before we even made it to Jacques, I must give a huge rap to the bar staff at Martinis. I had a dead set ripper Hendricks Gin Martini, made strong and long and great value. I expected cocktails like this would be weak and expensive; I could not have been more wrong. Even if unwelcome, I will return.

Day Two I become aware of the onboard BYOB policy. If you buy a bottle onshore, you can take it to any restaurant and pay $20 corkage. Bloody brilliant idea. I will say it again for emphasis. Bloody brilliant. The wine lists onboard are good granted, but for a wine freak like me who simply must seek out the local and bizarre, I am indebted to this excellent policy. In Honfleur I discover a terrific little wine store called Les Vins de Pierre Boinet, on Cours Jean de Vienne 02 31 89 40 19, just behind the Absinthe Hotel. A terrific collection of wines from all the key regions of France, but my brief is to stay local so I buy some Vouvray, Sancerre and Fume de Pouilly. The wife rolls her eyes suggesting we might not need six bottles between Honfleur and Bordeaux... I have no idea who she thinks she married. 

In Honfleur, apart from wine shopping, I buy the most expensive chocolate in Europe, and we have a passable, not inexpensive lunch at L’Absinthe. There are probably better choices that can be made in this gorgeous town. There is a Bib Gourmand in town called Le Breard at 7 rue du Puits 02 31895340, and I wish I had gone there. Friends, always travel with a red Michelin guide if food and drink is your thing. It's the Bible.

La Reserve Setting
Night Two will go down as a trip highlight for sure. We dine at La Reserve by Wine Spectator and fair dinkum it is brilliant. Seriously good. But the real highlight is sitting across from my winemaking lecturer from university in Adelaide some 15 years ago – Dr. Pat Lland, legend of Australian wine education, author and world’s nicest bloke. So a great meal became truly memorable. Best dishes were a stunning, silken pumpkin ravioli with crushed almond biscotti and a lobster and mascarpone pancake. The dessert was awesomeness on a plate, raspberry caramelized mille feuille with Madagascan vanilla cream. There were probably only two criticisms I could make of an otherwise stupendous meal. The first being that the chef was just a little bit too tall and good looking, and he did somewhat gain the attention of my wife. A slightly shorter fatter and older version, perhaps without the fabulous French accent, would be my preference for next time.

My only other comment would be that I would love to see more regional French wines paired to the stunning food. While the wine pairings are thoughtful and appropriate, it does seem slightly incongruous to be tasting two Cabernet Sauvignons from the USA as one tootles down the west coast of France towards Bordeaux!

So good was the meal at La Reserve that I declared it could be awarded a Michelin star. The wife agreed that it might be possible so the following day we did the only thing two thorough and exacting restaurant reviewers would do and sought out the only Michelin-starred restaurant close by the Port of Concarneau, a very well regarded local place called Le Moulin du Rosmardec in nearby Pont Aven, awarded one Michelin star in the 2011 guide. And in good news for Oceania Cruises and Marina, I would declare unequivocally that the meal at La Reserve was superior to this lovely restaurant at Pont Aven. So for serious food and wine lovers I simply urge you to go to La Reserve, it's Michelin-starred food for $75 including wine. That might just be one of the greatest value food and wine experiences on land or sea. 

So we come to today, the weather at La Rochelle is awful but the Wallabies defeated South Africa last night, there is still whisky in my Highland Park bottle, there is still a craps table with my name on it and a booking at Red Ginger tonight. And I think I need to try that Wagyu burger at Waves for lunch...

I am a virgin no more. Thank God.

To think I had been missing out on all this fun for so many years… what was I thinking??

 

May 31, 2011

AN EVENING AT LA RESERVE

   

La Reserve CrewDuring the recent Oceania Club Reunion Cruise onboard Marina, Executive Chef Tino Daab and his wonderful team treated a group of guests to an evening in La Reserve. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I was privileged to join this group for a spectacular evening of fine food and wine.

La Reserve Table

La Reserve is an intimate dining venue in which fine wines from around the world are perfectly paired with a seven-course menu. 
Place Setting
The custom-designed china and elegant place settings promised an evening to remember. La Reserve ChefChef Steven Pegg explained to us the delicious courses and wine pairings that awaited us this evening.

Table OneMy husband and I were joined by three other delightful couples at one of the tables in La Reserve. Pictured above (clockwise from left) are Mr. and Mrs. Ing, Mr. and Mrs. Rose, my husband and myself, and Mr. and Mrs. Maston.

Table TwoOceania Club Ambassador Matilda Jerosimic (front row, left) and Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis (second row, left) hosted another table that evening. Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President of Business Development Jeff Drew hosted a third table. La Reserve accommodates a maximum of 24 guests for an intimate and personalized dining experience.

Salts

Everything is in the details at La Reserve, beginning with the four different kinds of salt presented to start the evening, one from Oregon, Peru, France and Hawaii. Each had its own distinct flavor and color, ranging from white to pink to black. The Hawaiian salt was volcanic with an intense smoky flavor.

Amuse Bouche

The amuse bouche was a Lobster and Mascarpone Pancake with Baby Carrot Emulsion and Rock Chive Cress. The flavors were exquisite, and this certainly whet our appetites for what was still to come.
Pouring Pommery

The delicate Pommery Brut Rose Champagne paired perfectly with the lobster.
Cream of Porcini

Mr. Leroy Maston displays one of our favorite courses - Cream of Porcini Soup with Sauteed Duck Foie Gras Bites and Freshly Baked Croutons topped with a Cappuccino Foam. This delicious soup was matched with the full flavored and well structured Cervaro Castello della Sala Chardonnay from Umbria, Italy. The chardonnay had just a hint of herbs in the background that paired perfectly with the aromas of the porcini cream. 
Scallops

Above you see the Seared Bay Scallops and Jamon Iberico Pata Negra over Tarbais Bean Cream, which was surprisingly paired with a red wine, the Valsanzo Vall Sanzo Crianza from Ribera Del Duero, Spain. This red had low alcohol and soft tannins that made it a great match for the delicate flavors of the scallops and bean cream.
Short Rib

The main course was a Slow-Braised Short Rib with Truffle Sauce and Gnocchi au Jus. It was prepared sous-vide, a cooking style that is ever growing in popularity, especially in high-end gourmet restaurants. The meat is vacuum sealed and cooked very slowly over a period of 72 hours at a temperature of about 149 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the meat to cook in its own natural fats and to preserve the integrity of the flavors while creating an unbelievable succulence. It melted in your mouth, and the gnocchi was the perfect accompaniment.
Pouring Cabernet

The main course was paired with a Gordon Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley in Washington State, poured ever so carefully by the sommelier from an exquisite decanter. This cabernet had aromas of blackberry and a smooth, velvety texture that did not overpower the rich flavors of the beef.
Brie de Meaux

For our cheese course we enjoyed an AOC Brie de Meaux on a freshly baked baguette with Raisin-Onion Compote and Quince Jelly, paired with The Hess Collection Allomi Vineyard Cabernet. This cabernet had hints of minerals in the mouth that complemented the cheese perfectly. 
La Reserve Anniversary

The evening concluded with a special surprise - a cake to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Finkenstadt.
Mille Feuille
Somehow we found room for both the Raspberry Caramelized Mille Feuille that was our final course of the evening and also the delicious anniversary cake, which the Finkenstadt's so kindly shared with us all. This last treat was paired with a Loire Valley late-harvest chenin blanc from Chateau La Variere. The wine had a well-balanced sweetness and acidity that made it perfect for this dessert course.

Our evening in La Reserve will certainly be one of our most treasured memories from the Reunion Cruise. The food and wine were exceptional, the company delightful, and the staff commendable. If you are traveling onboard Marina or Riviera in the future, be sure to inquire about a fabulous evening of delectable cuisine and fine wines in La Reserve.

May 12, 2011

Messages from Marina: REUNION CRUISE CALLS ON CORFU

  

Achilleion Palace

On Tuesday, Reunion Cruise guests onboard Marina sailed for the Greek Isles, beginning with the lovely island of Corfu. This beautiful green island is covered in olive and cypress trees and blooming with deliciously sweet strawberries and kumquats. The charming old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but there are also many other interesting sights to explore in the mountains of this lush peninsula, such as the Achilleion Palace.

Achilles

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was known as Sissi, fell in love with Greek culture and in 1890 commissioned a summer palace to be built on Corfu. The art and architecture honored the Greek gods with which she was so fascinated, in particular the god Achilles. 


Death of Achilles

The famous sculpture, Achilles Dying, is the centerpiece of the lovely gardens surrounding the palace.


Villa Rosa

As Blogger-at-Large, I was privileged to explore Corfu with an Oceania Cruises excursion specially designed for the Reunion Cruise. Not only did we enjoy a drive through the old town and a tour of the Achilleion Palace, but we were also treated to an authentic Greek lunch at a gorgeous private residence, Villa Rosa.


Villa Rosa Garden

The estate was aptly named, for the gardens were filled with myriad varieties of enormous rose blooms, as well as numerous other beautiful blossoms. Our lunch was held in this lovely garden setting overlooking the sea.

Corfu Host

Our host (pictured above left) prepared moussaka, souvlaki, tzatziki and an impressive assortment of other delectable Greek specialties. She was even kind enough to share some of her recipes!

Villa Rosa Dancers

We were entertained with Greek music and dancing during our visit.

Teaching Greek Dances

Guests were invited to learn a traditional Greek dance. We discovered several talented dancers in our group, including Oceania Cruises VP of Sales Jeff Drew (second from left).

 Nick and Dancer

Oceania Cruises Manager of Loyalty Marketing Nick DeSantis planned this fabulous excursion that we all so enjoyed. If you have the opportunity to sail on a Reunion Cruise in the future, be sure to check out the Reunion Cruise Excursions, as they promise to highlight the most interesting local sights, a taste of local culture, and quite often a delicious meal of authentic local cuisine.



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 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 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! 

 

 

January 17, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 4 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

The launch of Marina's Maiden Voyage is growing ever so close, and today I have a very special sneak peek behind the scenes. I believe these may the very first photos ever shared of the interiors of our two new exclusive dining options, Privée and La Reserve.

Privee%20(1)

Privée is one of Marina's never-before-seen venues where you can host up to eight guests for the most opulent, indulgent experience we have yet envisioned - the Ultimate Chef's Table. You and your guests will enjoy a seven-course Menu Degustation; you can even meet privately with Marina's Executive Chef to make special requests. Above and below are glimpses of the exquisite space and brilliant view featured in Privée.


Privee%20(2)
We realized that while our cuisine rivals that of the finest restaurants ashore, we were lacking one amenity that so many of these restaurants offer - private dining. Privée gives you the chance to enjoy the company of dear friends along with the pleasure of superb cuisine and impeccable service that is truly all about you, no distractions, as if you're hosting your guests in your own fine estate home. It's just one more way that Marina will become your home away from home, and one more way we are elevating the Oceania Cruises experience to a level so exceptional, it has never before been achieved at sea.

The menus continue to evolve as our Executive Chef can hardly resist the opportunity to test the limits of his culinary skills and creativity in envisioning new features for Privée. But the photos below give you an idea of the gastronomic delights awaiting you and your guests should you decide to indulge in an evening at Privée.

Privee post

The other photos I have to share with you today are of La Reserve by Wine Spectator

LaReserve(1)

This industry-first onboard wine tasting center will offer several seminars and tastings designed to enhance your appreciation of fine wine and perfectly paired cuisine. In the evening, La Reserve can accommodate up to 24 guests for an intimate, seven-course gourmet dinner delightfully paired with premium wines.

La Reserve(2)

As we near Marina's debut, I've finally had the opportunity to taste some of the wonderful food I've been raving about. Below you see the chef preparing one of my favorite courses - dessert.  He is presenting the "Gold Bullion" of Valrhona Jivara Chocolate Mousse, which will be paired with a lovely Prunotto Moscato d'Asti.

La reserve bullion
The excitement and anticipation are building daily, so keep checking the blog as we count down the final days to Marina's Maiden Voyage! 

 

January 14, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 7 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

Red Ginger Jan 11
We are officially one week away from Marina’s Maiden Voyage, and I have to say this countdown is making me hungry!  Still, I keep getting great shots of the new restaurants and the fabulous menus, and I just have to pass them on to you as part of the final sneak peeks before Marina’s unveiling.

The photo above is of Red Ginger, the contemporary new Asian-fusion restaurant onboard Marina. You’ll see the décor is strikingly modern, and the menus are done in a sharp, minimalist style that complements the décor. Some of the dishes you can look forward to are: 

Caramelized Tiger Prawns - onions, chili garlic sauce, scallions

Avocado Lobster Salad - lobster, crispy lotus, avocado, tuna, hamachi, den miso, shiso vinegar

Thai Vegetable Curry - green curry sauce, sweet potato, aubergine, fried tofu, mushrooms, basil, cherry tomatoes

Malaysian Beef Penaeng - beef short rib, nutty curry paste, coconut, paratha roti

Below are photos of Polo Grill and Toscana, two specialty restaurants featured on all of our ships. If you've cruised onboard Regatta, Insignia, or Nautica, you'll notice that the décor of these restaurants differs on Marina, but once you try them, you'll immediately recognize Polo Grill's classic steakhouse fare and Toscana's authentic Italian.

Polo grill jan 13

Polo Grill

 

Toscana jan 13

Toscana


I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering. If you've already booked a voyage on Marina, you can go online now to make reservations for Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana, or Jacques. And check back here on the blog for my next sneak peek on Day 6 of our countdown tomorrow!