26 posts categorized " Grand Dining Room "

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.

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 11, 2013

REGATTA HOSTS MASTER CHEF JEAN-LOUIS DUMONET

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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.

 

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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.

September 10, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES FOUNDING CHAIRMAN JOE WATTERS HOSTS 10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING

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Nautica General Manager Carlo Gunetti welcomes Joe and Virginia Watters onboard Nautica

The year 2013 marks a decade at sea for Oceania Cruises, and it has been a year filled with celebrations in recognition of this milestone. Events have included 10th anniversary sailings onboard Regatta, Marina and Riviera, and this week Founding Chairman Joe Watters and his wife, Virginia, boarded Nautica for the final anniversary sailing of the year. 

After Nautica set sail from Barcelona, the celebratory events were soon in full swing. Mr. and Mrs. Watters, Nautica General Manager Carlo Gunetti, and other officers and crew members welcomed guests to a cocktail reception in Nautica Lounge. Mr. Watters had the opportunity to thank Oceania Cruises’ guests for their loyalty and also recognize some of the team members who have been with Oceania Cruises for its entire 10-year history.

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Mr. and Mrs. Watters also hosted several guests at a Gala Anniversary Dinner in the Grand Dining Room. Guests included Mr. and Mrs. Kohel, who are Oceania Club Diamond members and Oceania Cruises’ most traveled guests.

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So far it has certainly been a celebration befitting the extraordinary milestone of a decade at sea!

 

July 13, 2013

A GRAND CELEBRATION AT SEA

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When Vice Chairman Bob Binder was on Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary sailing onboard Marina last month, he shared some photos from the gala anniversary brunch. After seeing the spectacular celebration created by Oceania Cruises’ talented chefs, I was especially looking forward to this event when I embarked the anniversary sailing onboard Riviera. As always, our brilliant chefs did not disappoint.

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This special “Colossal Brunch” was held during a beautiful day at sea. You could sense the festive atmosphere the moment you arrived in the Grand Dining Room, where the staff stood ready to greet all of our guests with a warm welcome to the celebration. The Grand Dining Room was adorned with ice sculptures, floral arrangements and amazing displays of “edible art.” From the pastries, breads and fruits to the carving stations and the seafood, every creation was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. 

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Guests were treated to an array of culinary delights. There were crab claws, gravlax, colossal shrimp and grilled lobster tail. Prosciutto and Virginia ham were sliced to order. Caviar was served with the traditional accompaniments, and there was a selection of cheeses from around the world as well as a colorful assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. The bread onboard is always baked fresh daily using only the finest French flours, and each baguette, bagel and croissant was carefully crafted into a masterpiece.

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IMG_0315The only challenge was saving room for the splendid desserts, each a work of art. A delicious anniversary cake was accompanied by a towering sculpture designed in chocolate. What better way to celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 10 years of culinary excellence at sea than with a spectacular brunch as we sailed the Adriatic from Dubrovnik to Venice. It was the perfect beginning to a wonderful day, and the day concluded with an equally special celebration.

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While exceptional cuisine has always distinguished the Oceania Cruises experience, our guests tell me time and again that it is the officers, staff and crew that make every Oceania Cruises voyage feel like coming home. Last night was the Oceania Club cocktail reception in honor of our cherished guests and dedicated team members that are such an important part of our Oceania Cruises family.

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I welcomed guests to the event with (pictured above left to right) General Manager Thierry Tholon, Oceania Club Ambassador Carol Harrington, Captain Gunnar Romtveit and Oceania Club Ambassador Cary Arias. It was an emotional event as we honored some of the most loyal guests, officers and crew that have sailed with us over the past 10 years.

DSCN1295-2 DSCN1306-2In the above photo are pictured Ms. Deanne Abram and Mr. Stanley Smith, who we welcomed on their 13th voyage with Oceania Cruises. To the left are Mr. and Mrs. Louis Abrams, who were recognized for reaching the Bronze level of Oceania Club membership on their fifth cruise with us. In total, nine guests received their Bronze pins for having sailed five cruises, and six guests received their Silver pins in recognition of their 10th voyage with us. It was truly a pleasure to meet so many of our loyal guests and have the opportunity to thank them for being a part of our Oceania Cruises family.

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We also recognized Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Fraterman, who were on their 14th cruise and were our most traveled guests on this sailing. One of the most special moments of the evening was when we honored Cruise Director Leslie Jon, who has been with Oceania Cruises for our entire 10 year history. This day was truly the pinnacle of an unforgettable 10th anniversary sailing, and we look forward to making more fond memories in the next decade to come.

June 17, 2013

GALA BRUNCH CELEBRATES OCEANIA CRUISES' 10TH ANNIVERSARY

Chef and cake Anniversary cake

The celebration of Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary continues on the Scandinavian Serenade sailing onboard Marina. As we sailed into Copenhagen this weekend, Chef Alexis Quaretti created a magnificent celebratory brunch. The centerpiece was a chocolate castle and a cake to commemorate this milestone anniversary. You will note that there were already a couple pieces of cake missing by the time I took the photo. I am not an early riser, and apparently some of the early birds have sweet tooths.

The chefs created a spectacular feast for us. There were a number of carving stations, making it particularly challenging to select my entrée from the many appealing options. I finally settled on the salmon in puff pastry with spinach mousse, and I was very pleased with my choice. Since we were breakfasting, I felt obligated to include some eggs with my meal, so I doubled up on the béarnaise sauce.

It is also important to eat six servings of fruit and vegetables each day, so I toughed it out and had two large servings of this luscious fruit torte.

Brunch service Fruit Torte

For this celebratory event, the chefs not only created beautiful dishes but also sculpted culinary masterpieces to adorn the Grand Dining Room. You would be amazed at what these talented chefs can create from sugar and fruit – true works of art. 

Chef Sculpting Fruit Sculpture

It was a brunch befitting a 10th anniversary celebration and a wonderful start to another day exploring the wonders of Scandinavia.

June 13, 2013

VICE CHAIRMAN BOB BINDER SENDS GREETINGS FROM 10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING

Marina has set sail on the first of four cruises this year that will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Oceania Cruises. As one of the founders of Oceania Cruises, I am excited to be hosting this celebratory voyage, and I’m looking forward to meeting many of our valued guests whose loyalty has allowed us to reach the milestone of 10 years at sea.

Butler GreetingMarina set sail from Southampton under rather stereotypical British weather. There was a crisp breeze and a bit of fog and light drizzle, which was all the more reason to spend the day exploring the Marina! We have almost 700 past guests onboard, so most are enjoying refamiliarizing themselves with the ship, and our new guests have been very impressed with what they’ve seen so far. Our team of butlers was ready with welcoming smiles to greet guests and assist with their every need.

I also enjoyed welcoming guests as well as some British government officials and travel agents. I decided I should probably wear a tie for my official duties, but don’t worry, we haven’t changed the dress code. I’ll be packing the tie away soon and enjoying our country club casual dress code for the rest of the cruise.

Bob BinderMarina looks as beautiful as ever, although last winter I sailed around South America onboard Regatta, and I have to say I am equally fond of all of our ships. The only thing I had missed onboard Regatta was the cuisine from Red Ginger, since Red Ginger restaurant is only available on Marina and Riviera. But now we are offering selections from both Red Ginger and Jacques in the Grand Dining Room on Regatta and Nautica as well, so guests can enjoy the full scope of the exceptional Oceania Cruises culinary experience onboard all of our ships.

Speaking of the Grand Dining Room, I’m looking forward to trying many of the 82 new dishes that we recently introduced on these menus. Our culinary team spent nearly a year designing and testing the new dishes, including three new lobster dishes and 10 new pastas and risottos. Now I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors!

You can probably tell that the excellent cuisine is one of my favorite parts of an Oceania Cruises voyage. But I shouldn’t neglect to mention the wonderful ports of call we’ll be visiting. As with all Oceania Cruises itineraries, this one includes a wealth of fascinating destinations, from Oslo to Copenhagen to St. Petersburg, where we’ll stay for two nights so our guests have plenty of time to explore this spectacular city.

This promises to be another unforgettable Oceania Cruises voyage, made uniquely special by all of the onboard events in celebration of our 10th anniversary. I will enjoy reflecting on the past decade and looking forward to the next as I celebrate with our cherished guests. I’ll share more stories of our journey here on the blog soon!

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

Belin Blogger Garanger
Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
Photo 3-2
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. 

Image137
Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Creamy Pesto and Crispy Focaccia Bread
Image141
Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish Fillet with Saffron Mussel Sauce

 
Image109
Herb-Crusted Cornish Hen alla Diavolo with Bacon and Shoestring Potatoes
Photo 29
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

Photo 1-1
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. 

Photo 27
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. 

Photo 1-9
Moules Marinières: Fresh Black Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley

Image063
Palermo-Style Grilled Swordfish over Crushed Red Bliss Potatoes with Eggplant Caviar

 

Image067
Traditional French Beef Tartare with Toasted Baguette Wafer
Image147
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?

Photo 34
Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crepe with Langoustine Bisque
Photo 1-2
Rigatoni alle Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata

 

Image123
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.

Photo 5
Pasta with Fresh Littleneck Clams and Pinot Grigio Sauce
Photo 30
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.

Image081
Sweet Barbecued Pork Chop with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Stuffed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Photo 26
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. 

Photo 1-8
Steamed Maine Lobster on Castilla-La Mancha Saffron Rice
Photo 19
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.

Image057
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.

Image017
Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Velouté
Photo 25
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. 

Image003
Roasted Butternut Squash with Arugula, Mango, Black Radish, Hearts of Palm and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
Image043
Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato-Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella

 

Photo 1
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 

Blogger and Chefs
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?

PG Shimp
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!

OS 1 OS 2 OS 5

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.

OST LPF and DJ
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.

VS 1 VS 2

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.

PS 1 PS 2

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!

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!

 

November 30, 2011

RIVIERA WILL SOON BE SHIPSHAPE!

Riviera November 17 Exterior-2

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

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

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

Riviera November 17 GDR

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

Riviera November 17 Pool Deck
It is fascinating to conceive how a talented team of designers, engineers and shipbuilders can turn raw materials into such a vision of elegance and sophistication. We will continue to share updates from the shipyard as Riviera transforms into the majestic ship she is destined to become. 

 

May 10, 2011

Messages from Marina: MEDIEVAL GEMS OF THE ADRIATIC

 

  Buffet Fruit Sculpture

Guests enjoying the Reunion Cruise onboard Marina celebrated Mother’s Day in fine fashion on Sunday with a delicious brunch in the Grand Dining Room.

Caviar
Caviar was the highlight of the grand affair.
Croquenbouche

The pastry chef created a croquenbouche - a tower of cream puffs that was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Dubrovnik Bridge

Shortly after brunch, Marina arrived in Dubrovnik, a charming Croatian town with a famous fortified wall offering magnificent views. 

 

Dubrovnik View

Marina Night Dubrovnik

There were also fabulous views of Marina in port that evening.


Marina Kotor 1

The next day Marina sailed for another Adriatic town with a medieval heritage – Kotor, Montenegro. The town is situated along a scenic fjord, and a short climb up the mountain was rewarded with another great shot of Marina.  

This is only a taste of the adventures guests have been experiencing on the 7th Annual Reunion Cruise. More to follow very soon!

 

March 30, 2011

Avid Cruiser Praises Execs Hands-On Approach to Marina

 

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

Oceania Cruises Marina: A Personal Work of Art

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full Avid Cruiser Oceania Cruises Marina Ship Review.

 

 

January 27, 2011

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

    

Riviera 1

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

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

Riviera 2

Riviera 3

Riviera 4

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

Grand Bar Seating (Medium)

Horizons Tea

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

Pool-2

Golf-2

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

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

January 24, 2011

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

    

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

Marina-Barcelona Port

And a spectacular shot of Marina at night.

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

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

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

Hustace Photo-9-Grand Staircase

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

Hustace Photo-7-Vase

Hustace Photo-8-Terrace Chandelier

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

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

It is more than you can imagine.

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

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

First Impressions:

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

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

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

We are promised more surprises as we go along.

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

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

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

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

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

Toscana for dinner tomorrow night.

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

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

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

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

 

Daddy Sang Bass, Mamma Sang Tenor

Me and little brother just joined right in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David C
__________________

 

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

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

January 13, 2011

VIDEO FROM GENOA: Marina's Grand Dining Room

 

  

I have already posted the countdown for today, but I had to share this video as well.  Some of you may have seen it on Facebook or YouTube, but I wanted to make sure none of the followers of the Blog missed out.  

Okay, so it's not exactly up to Spielberg's standards of directorial excellence, but it is a nice glimpse into Marina's Grand Dining Room.  I hope you enjoy today's bonus sneak peek!

January 12, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 9 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

 

Marina at Sunset 1-12-11
While those of you in the States are enjoying your afternoon, here in Genoa the sun has set behind Marina's lovely silhouette. Today marks 9 days until Marina's Maiden Voyage, and here is another sneak peek as promised, this time of Marina's beautiful exterior.  It's shortly after 9:00 p.m. here, but work continues as we grow ever closer to Marina's inaugural sailing. 

Below I'll also share one more photo of the Grand Dining Room. It is definitely one of my favorite spaces on the ship, and in this photo you can really see the radiance of the chandelier. More photos to come tomorrow as we continue the countdown!

GDR Chandelier

January 11, 2011

PRESIDENT BOB BINDER BEGINS THE COUNTDOWN: 10 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

 

After all of the work that has gone into Marina, and with all of the excitement that has surrounded her impending debut, it’s still hard to believe that we are just 10 short days from her Maiden Voyage. But I am here in Genoa now, watching as the finishing touches are being put in place, and I can attest to the fact that Marina has indeed come to life. And she is a beauty. As I walk through her restaurants and stroll across the pool deck and inspect the new venues, I find myself a bit awestruck thinking not only of how far we’ve come on this journey to her creation, but also of all the amazing voyages that await her in the future. Most of all, I can’t wait until those first guests come onboard and get to experience Marina for themselves. For those of you who are booked on the Maiden Voyage, the excitement and anticipation must be growing every day.

Only so many “sneak peeks” remain before Marina is officially unveiled to the world. In fact, exactly 10 “sneak peeks” remain, as each of these final 10 days leading up to the Maiden Voyage, we will share one more preview with our loyal guests who follow the blog.

GDR Jan 11
As the countdown to Marina’s sailing begins, I receive fewer and fewer calls requesting “Final Approval.” Menus have been printed. Wine cellars have been stocked. As you can see above in the photo I took today, even the tables in the Grand Dining Room have been set. Below you see the lovely detail of the Casino entrance, where the cards are ready to be dealt. There is little more that can wait to be done “a bit closer to her sail date.” That date is about to arrive.

Casino Entrance Jan 11
So keep checking the blog and help me count down the days to Marina’s Maiden Voyage. I hope you all are as excited as I am, and I hope you have the opportunity to experience Marina for yourselves very soon.

 

 

December 8, 2010

MARINA - 45 DAYS AND COUNTING

Marina is only 45 days from her debut and she is shaping up quickly and beautifully. It is truly remarkable how quickly areas of the ship are being transformed. One day, you have exposed steel and wires hanging from the ceiling and 24 to 48 hours later, the room is all but finished.

I wanted to provide our loyal readers and guests with a photo update from the shipyard so that you can see how much progress has been made in the last few weeks.

Marina December 2010 119 (98) 
They are laying the carpet in the Reception Hall and on the Grand Staircase.

Marina December 2010 119 (20) 
The Casino Bar is coming along nicely. When you see the finished space, you will really be "wowed". The chandelier only hints at what to expect from this room.

Marina December 2010 119 (13) 
These are the beautiful wine display cases inside the entrance to the Grand Dining Room.

Marina December 2010 119 (16) 
The elegance of the Grand Dining Room is really begining to shine through.

Marina December 2010 119 (18) 
A detail shot of one of the beautiful fluted wall sconces.

Marina December 2010 119 (19) 
One of the smaller, individual chandeliers being hung.

Marina December 2010 119 (127) 
This is Jacques. The flooring is antique French Oak that was reclaimed from an old barn we came across near Lyons, Jacques' hometown. This is the first time anyone has ever gone such an unorthodox route in terms of flooring on a ship. The yard and the architetcts were somewhat stunned that we wanted to do this but I am glad we did as it adds to the authenticity of the restaurant.

 Marina December 2010 119 (112)
They are in the midst of unpacking all of the chairs for Red Ginger. I am going to bet that this restaurant will be the most stunning of them all. When the lighting is set to the proper levels and the tables are set, it will be a visual feast.

There will be more to come in the next post - including the Terrace Cafe, the Culinary Center, Artist Loft and the Canyon Ranch Spa Club.

November 19, 2010

Friday Evening Update from the Shipyard

After almost two years of actual construction, Marina is trotting into the home stretch. Being our first new, custom built ship, I am amazed at how much of a difference each and every day makes in her appearance. After so many months of seemingly never changing bare steel, Marina looks new and different every day.

Here are a few updates from the shipyard today

GDRphoto101119 

Here is the Grand Dining Room chandelier, it was lit for the very first time today. The wall sconces have also been installed and they have laid the luxurious carpet.

The carpet throughout the ship is really very special and I will share the details on that in an upcoming post.

Martinis101119 

Here is Martinis. They have taken the protective covering off of all the paneling and bar and if you look closely, you can see they have hung the first set of sheers in the windows.

I am certain we will have more and more to share with each passing week!

November 17, 2010

Bob Reveals a Sneak Peak at Marina

I know many of you are anxious for a sneak peak at Marina, so I gathered a few more photos to share. While she is still a work in progress, many of the lovely details that will make her so special are already coming together. And in December and early January, all the finishing touches will be going into place! 

GDR BarAbove is the Grand Bar, which will be a wonderful space to relax and enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink. In this view, we are looking forward. As you can see, the carpets, wall coverings and ornate millwork are all in place, albeit with protective covers over them to ensure that nothing gets dirty, scratched or marred. The ship is a beehive of hundreds of workmen right now, so we can’t be too careful! 

 

GDR Bar CeilingJust to give you an idea of the attention to detail that has gone into Marina, this is one of the inset ceiling lights that is being trimmed out in gold. Even the overheads are rich and lustrous. 

 

GDR 4 Detail
Here is the aft, port corner of the Grand Dining Room. You can see the room is already taking on a very elegant feel. The soft, cream-colored paneling is trimmed with gold filigree, and the insets have a wonderful flourish to them. You may also get a sense of the lofty ceiling heights of 14 to 16 feet. 

 

Library wood panels detail 2

I don’t know who would’ve peeled back the protective covering on the paneling in the Library so that you could take a peek. Certainly not me!

 

Marina Crest
While not one of the features we tout to our guests, Marina’s ornate bow crest is a detail that Frank and I especially love.

 

September 7, 2010

Two explorers spend six splendid weeks onboard Insignia this summer

Randy Jeff Geirangerfjord Hike

Jeff, Randy, and Oceania Club Ambassador Per Orren overlooking Geirangerfjord, Norway. (Insignia is a speck in the fjord far below.) 

Two guests of Oceania Cruises enjoyed an amazing six-week voyage this summer onboard Insignia. Our featured guests, Randy and Jeff, embarked in Barcelona on June 27th and traveled around the Iberian Peninsula and up through Scandinavia before disembarking in Copenhagen on August 10th. This was their eighth voyage with Oceania Cruises. They say that Oceania Cruises is their “favorite cruise line, by far, because of the small size and beauty of the ships, the outstanding cuisine, top-notch service, the interesting and port-intensive itineraries, and frankly the fellow travelers.” Many of the people they have met onboard Oceania Cruises have become friends, including other guests and members of the staff and crew as well. 

Randy Jeff BrugesRandy is a financial planner and Jeff is a high school music teacher, but their favorite thing to do when not traveling is to plan their next trip. “When we board an Oceania ship,” says Randy, “we feel immediately welcomed and at home. There is a sense of comfort mixed with spirit of adventure that, for us, is quite unique to Oceania Cruises. It keeps us coming back again and again.”  

Randy and Jeff are most certainly adventurous spirits who like to experience everything a port has to offer. While in Bordeaux, they enjoyed wine tastings at St. Emilion and Medoc. After visiting Mont St. Michel in Saint-Malo, they sat outdoors at a small cafe and savored a delicious lunch of mussels accompanied by rosé wine. They rented bikes in Bruges and rode north along a windmill-lined canal, and visited fantastic art museums in Bilbao, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, and Oslo. Norway offered ample hiking opportunities, so they explored the mountain paths and glacial lakes from Hellysylt to Geiranger, and even a steep mountain in Longyearbyen, far north of the Arctic Circle, with a guide who carried a rifle in case they encountered a hungry polar bear. (They did not.)  

Jeff Guggenheim
Jeff enjoys an audio guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Randy Barbary Ape
In Gibraltar, Randy and Jeff were both surprised when the Barbary Apes jumped on their heads!

While onboard, Randy and Jeff savor the simple pleasures of cruising: Afternoon tea in Horizons, reading in the library - which Randy describes as “the most beautiful at sea” - or just sipping champagne on Deck 10 and watching the world sail by. Dinner is certainly a highlight of any day. If the ship is anchored off a particularly beautiful port such as Sorrento or Monte Carlo, Randy and Jeff dine al fresco at Tapas on the Terrace with the lovely view as a Randy Jeff Windmillsbackdrop. As foodies, they always enjoy fine dining at Polo and Toscana. Jeff is a big fan of the Canyon Ranch spa cuisine, which is why he didn't gain a single pound during their travels. (Alas, Randy did.) When forced to name a favorite, they chose the Grand Dining Room, as they love the variety, the flavors and the presentation. They also sang the praises of Carlos Salvador, Corazon, and the entire wait staff for their excellent service. 

In fact, Randy and Jeff say that their fondest memories of this summer onboard Insignia are of the staff and crew. “The service they provided was beyond compare,” says Randy. “We were treated like kings. Everyone knew our names, greeted us with smiles of genuine warmth, and went out of their way to help us. We cannot compliment highly enough the hospitality provided by General Manager Rafael Cinque and his outstanding team. It was difficult to say goodbye to so many new friends after six weeks on Insignia.”

Randy Supports Insignia
Randy can't resist the opportunity to show his support for Insignia. 

Randy and Jeff will soon reunite with old friends and make more new ones, as their next cruise is already booked for June 2011, a voyage onboard Nautica exploring the Black Sea. Perhaps you will run into them on one of your own adventures with Oceania Cruises!

August 18, 2010

Top Five Tips on What to Pack for an Oceania Cruise

As I'll be boarding Regatta for the Oceania Club reunion cruise in September, can you blame me for already thinking about packing? Others anticipating an Oceania Cruise often ask me for packing tips, so here are my Top Five on what to pack. Five more tips on how to pack will follow soon. I hope you find them helpful, and please feel free to share your own tips here as well!

Grandstairs
 

1. Country club casual dress can be tailored to suit your tastes.

For me, an Oceania Cruise is an opportunity to explore my wardrobe. I confess that at home I'm one of those awful women who can often be found in sweatpants. What can I say? It's the uniform of a writer. But when on vacation, I embrace the country club casual lifestyle of an Oceania Cruise and bring out all the fun, stylish and neglected outfits in my closet. During the day I wear casual, comfortable clothes for exploring — khakis and cotton tops or even comfortable skirts and sundresses. Shorts are also fine for excursions. If we're at sea, I may spend the whole day in a swimsuit and cover up. Once the day's adventures have concluded, I usually shower (twice in one day — how decadent!) and dress for dinner. In my "normal" life I rarely dress up, so I love the chance to wear a cocktail dress to dinner every night.

For those of you who feel that ties and gowns have no place on a relaxing vacation, Oceania Cruises really is "Your World. Your Way." If the thought of changing clothes in the middle of the day does not excite you, it's easy to wear day-to-night outfits instead. A sundress or khakis can be dressed up for dinner with evening jewelry and a nice wrap. Gentlemen often need only add a sports jacket to be ready for the Grand Dining Room. And if you prefer to stay in shorts, simply dine at the Terrace Cafe. You can wear dressy shorts and casual shirts even in the evenings. So feel free to pack a wardrobe that suits your tastes, whether that means one cocktail dress for that special night at Polo Grill or a cocktail dress for every night of the week.

2. Pack comfortable shoes for exploring.

Once I've assembled the perfect outfit for an excursion ashore, I'm often tempted to complement it with some strappy sandals. Do not fall into this trap. When exploring a port, if you intend to do much walking, you'll want to wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Many European cities have cobblestone streets, which add to the enchantment but can also take a toll on one's feet. On one trip I decided to wear thongs —cushioned thongs, but thongs nonetheless — to wander about Messina. The next day I found myself hobbling around Rome with a terrible shin splint.

3. Some ports may have a dress code.

While the onboard ambiance is relaxed, be aware that some destinations do have dress codes. For instance, in Turkey there are many places where shoulders and knees must be covered. Women must cover their hair before entering the Blue Mosque, so if you don't want to use the wraps provided, be sure to pack a scarf. Oceania Cruises is very good about alerting you in advance to such dress codes so that you can plan accordingly.

4. Don't skimp on the essentials.

As you'll be traveling at least 12-14 days, ensure you have plenty of sunscreen, facial cleanser, hair products and other toiletries on hand. Travel-sized toiletries may not suffice, even for the men. While you can purchase products overseas, they are often more expensive, and many of us don't want to be trying out a new brand of lotion in the middle of a vacation. The ladies may also want to pack an extra eyeliner. It may be difficult to tell if you're near the end of one, and once I broke off a brand new eyeliner the first day of a cruise, forcing me to cruise the Baltic with undefined eyes. For the men, brand loyalty may not be a concern when it comes to toiletries, so you can rest assured that Oceania Cruises' ships stock many essentials in their boutiques. If you somehow manage to forget and/or lose your shaving kit, as my husband has done on more than one occasion, you won't have to go unshaven your entire vacation. Unless of course that's how you prefer it!

5. Don't forget your passport.

This one seems obvious, but if I don't mention it, someone will point out that I forgot the most important tip of all. Oceania Cruises usually collects all guests' passports when they board and holds them for the duration of the cruise to expedite customs procedures. So the good news is that you don't have to spend every minute of your vacation keeping track of your passport. But you do have to pack it, and while en route to the ship, be sure to keep it in a secure place. 

Picture 679  Picture 670
One of the most wonderful things about Oceania Cruises is that they think of everything. If you forget to pack your umbrella, you'll find one waiting for you in your stateroom. And if you then forget to take that umbrella with you on the day that it rains, the ship's staff will ensure you receive a dry welcome home. So enjoy anticipating your cruise as you pack, and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
 

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