16 posts categorized " Jacques "

August 28, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 3: Gourmet Specialty Restaurants

Curious Traveler, an Emmy Award-nominated program, is spotlighting Oceania Cruises in a series of engaging webisodes. This week, host Christine van Blokland visits France, Italy and Asia by means of the extraordinary dining venues aboard Riviera. From Jacques, Toscana and Red Ginger to Polo Grill and La Reserve, Christine calls the Oceania Cruises specialty dining experience exquisite


Join us again next Friday for the fourth webisode in this eight-part series as Christine explores the onboard enrichment program. Be sure to visit our blog every Friday until October 2nd as we continue to debut a new webisode.

To learn more about our specialty dining restaurants, visit OceaniaCruises.com.  

August 5, 2014


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!


{ SERVES 4 }
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.

September 23, 2013


Sagrada FamiliaRiviera set sail from Barcelona on Thursday on the Mosaic Masterpiece cruise, hosted by celebrated master chef and Oceania Cruises’ executive culinary director, Jacques Pépin. Chef Pépin is hosting several special onboard events during this cruise, including culinary demonstrations and guest appearances in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center.

Chef Pépin has also been enjoying the opportunity to explore the wonderful destinations on this itinerary. In Barcelona, he visited Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Família. Begun in 1882, the magnificent church was unfinished at the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926 and remains unfinished to this day, although successive architects have continued the work according to Gaudí’s original designs. 


Of course, Chef Pépin also wanted to explore the local markets in Barcelona, so he stopped into the Santa Caterina Market to check out the expansive selection of fresh produce, fish, meats, cheeses and more. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a bite of lunch as well!

While Pépin is renowned as a brilliant master chef, you may not be aware that he is also a talented artist. Some of his own works as well as several works by other artists in his personal collection are displayed in Jacques restaurant onboard the ship. Thus, it’s no surprise that Pépin greatly enjoyed the chance to visit the Miró museum when Riviera called on Palma de Mallorca.

Pépin with friend and fellow chef, Jean-Claude Szurdak

While Joan Miró was born in Barcelona, his mother’s family was from Mallorca, and he began visiting there at a young age. In 1929 he married a Mallorcan woman, Pilar Juncosa, and settled in Mallorca permanently in 1954. He built studios here that he and his wife later donated to the city of Palma, and now visitors can contemplate the artist’s work amidst his own creative surroundings. Pépin and his friends enjoyed a lovely afternoon discussing the works of this legendary artist in such an intimate and personal setting.

DSC_4490 DSC_4494

It’s no wonder that Oceania Cruises and Chef Pépin make such a perfect team, as our ships are known for two of Pépin’s favorite things: exquisite cuisine and an exceptional art collection. Upon returning to Riviera, Pépin could observe works from an astounding array of artists, from Pablo Picasso to Wifredo Lam. And guests onboard Marina can see some of Joan Miró’s finest works without even disembarking the ship!

The Mosaic Masterpiece cruise continues with calls on Málaga, Gibraltar, Casablanca and Cádiz. More culinary and artistic delights are sure to come!

February 5, 2013


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. 

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.

Photo 24
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.

Photo B-Miso-Glazed Sea Bass
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.

December 10, 2012


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.


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)


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 


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)


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


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


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)


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)


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 


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.”


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


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.

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, 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.




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!

May 30, 2012


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!

November 9, 2011



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.”


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.”


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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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 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.



March 15, 2011

MARINA GETS 5-STAR REVIEW from Patti Pietschmann, National Cruise Examiner


Travel writer Patti Pietschmann has given rave reviews after cruising onboard Marina during her 18-day Inaugural Passage. Below we've shared some of her glowing remarks, along with some photos captured by our Blogger at Large and one from our onboard Photo Coach, Curtis Hustace.

You can read this and other articles on Marina from Patti at examiner.com/cruise.

Miso Sea Bass

Miso Glazed Sea Bass featured in Red Ginger



By Patti Pietschmann

The first evening out of Miami set the tone for the maiden voyage of Oceania Cruises’ gunshot-across-the-bow in mid-size luxury cruising.  A woman at the table next to ours in Red Ginger, one of four no-charge alternative dinner restaurants onboard, looked down at her miso-glazed sea bass wrapped in a ti leaf closed with a tiny green clothespin and then up at her dining companion with misty eyes. “I think I could eat here every night,” she said with a note of awe in her voice.

Eavesdropping that first evening aboard the brand new Marina on her 18-day inaugural voyage from Miami through the Panama Canal to San Francisco (via Los Angeles, where we disembarked), may not have been polite. But listening while our fellow passengers praised the food on the fourth vessel and first new build in Oceania Cruises’ four-ship fleet pretty much gave away the headline for the 1,250-passenger ship. We heard the 20-ounce prime porterhouse served in the Polo Grill compared to those found in New York City’s renowned steakhouses, the beef carpaccio in Toscana extolled as exemplary, and the smoked salmon-wrapped salmon tartar in Jacques compared to a dish that might be served at Patina in downtown Los Angeles.

Which of the four was best? That was like asking fraternity guys which of the Victoria’s Secret models they favor.

That’s the food-forward way Marina, whose culinary godfather, after all, is the celebrated French chef Jacques Pepin (he of the eponymous Jacques) means to sail.

Terrace Chandelier

A striking chandelier in Terrace Café

Even dinner at the Terrace Café, the ship’s three-meal buffet restaurant—usually an afterthought on other cruise ships—strived for and often achieved a culinary level far loftier than might be expected. Aboard other ships, this restaurant is often an afterthought. Not here. At breakfast one morning, a passenger who had dined there the previous night buttonholed the maitre d ‘ and told him his meal had been “fabulous.” And one of your faithful reporters himself waxed ecstatic over lamb curry that was ideal in every way save for the odd absence of chutney, a touch that one comes to expect aboard Marina.

Frank Del Rio, the Miami-based cruise line’s CEO, quoted in Taste of the World coffee table book given to all inaugural cruise passengers, clearly enunciates Oceania’s battle cry. “We decided to budget more per guest for food than any other cruise company. Some spend that money on stage shows and dancing girls. We put it on the plate. We want the food to be the show, and the dining experience to be the entertainment.”

To that end, fully one-quarter of the ship’s crew work in the galleys, meaning approximately one cook for every ten passengers. It shows.

Just as much attention is paid to dining service, and on the decks too. Sometimes servers swarm to fill coffee cups and water glasses. It all gets a bit frantic at times. Plates are bussed perhaps too eagerly when a dining companion has not yet finished—an overlooked nuance that can get annoying.

What also quickly becomes annoying, or simply mysterious, is the reservation system for the alternative restaurants. Each stateroom gets one crack at each of the four, but then something akin to a free-for-all ensues. Dining slots are then assigned on a daily basis, beginning at eight in the morning, and a call almost always results in a sold-out shrug over the phone and placement  on a waiting list that sometimes results in a coveted reservation and sometimes not. The arcane system is explained nowhere.

This is a cruise ship designed as its own foodie destination, with virtually everything else—entertainment, ports of call—assigned a secondary role. We attended one show and then decided our time was better used for reading books from the elegant library. As for ports, we found it almost extraordinary that a cruise from Florida through the Caribbean didn’t stop at a single island. The Colombian port city of Cartagena was the only stop prior to transiting the Canal—always a highlight for many passengers except those who, like us, had made the transit numerous times.

Costa Rican Sunset
A Costa Rican sunset captured by Curtis Hustace

After the Canal, we stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where we bought a kilo of good shade-grown XXXXXX from Coffee John, who for years has set up a stand and sold his Shady Lady coffee whenever a cruise ship docks. We also bought coffee in Puerto Chiapas, the next port, where what later turned out to be a log snagged in the starboard propeller as we sailed away. That forced the captain to shut down propulsion on that side and to bypass Huatulco. At Acapulco, the next scheduled stop, divers freed the propeller. Aside from the skipped port, the glitch was hardly noticed by passengers.

The ship itself is a sharp departure for Oceania, formed in 2003 with repurposed previously owned vessels Insignia, Nautica and Regatta that are half the size of the 65,000 ton Marina and carry half the number of passengers. How roomy is Marina? It took us a week before we ran into Joe and Carol, who live in West Hills and we’ve known for years. Their stateroom was two away from ours.

Vista Living Room

The living room of one of the extraordinary Vista Suites

The Marina’s extra room is reflected in the number of balcony cabins (95% of the total), their size (standard staterooms measure 282 square feet, hardly spacious but bowling alleys compared 216 square-foot standard staterooms of the other ships), and the sprawling deck space including a huge-for-sea swimming pool whose length we could never learn (much head scratching and helpless shrugging) but pace-estimated at 35 feet.

The increased room also means Marina has those four no-charge alternative restaurants compared to two (Polo Grill, Toscana) on the other ships. Marina also has two specialty restaurants that do carry a surcharge--$75 to cover wine-pairing in La  Reserve, $1,000 for up to eight persons for a multi-course menu degustation in Privée.





February 21, 2011



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


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

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

Photo Shoot GDR

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

Lobster Thermidor

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

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

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

January 18, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 3 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!



Jacques Menu P1




Only 3 days remain until Marina's Maiden Voyage, and as I mentioned yesterday, we are dining in and fine-tuning each of the restaurants. If you've followed the countdown at all, you can probably imagine how much I've been looking forward to this part. Today we dined in Jacques, and as I know there has been a lot of anticipation leading up to the debut of this restaurant, I wanted to share with you the first preview of Jacques' menu. Above you see a selection of meats from Jacques' show rotisserie. The rotisserie itself is a work of art, done in gleaming glass and brass, not to mention the culinary creations featured within. You see the rotisserie menu to the left along with the sauces and sides offered.

Below you see all of the delicious hors d'oeuvres on the menu, followed by the soups and salads. As you can probably guess, Pauline is serving the Crème de Potiron, a scrumptious creamy pumpkin soup.










Jacques Menu P2

Pauline and Pumpkin

Jacques Menu P3
Of course, each entree is likewise exquisite, and you know that a French bistro bearing Jacques Pépin’s name is going to feature fabulous pastries. I no longer need search the French ports of call for the perfect pastries, as I can now enjoy them onboard. Maybe now I'll get around to visiting a few more museums!

Jacques Menu P4

Jacques Dessert

Jacques Menu P5

I'll end today's post with one more shot of Jacques' lovely interior. Fine dining is not only about delectable cuisine, it's also about an elegant yet comfortable ambiance, and as you can see, Jacques has it all.

Jacques3 (Medium)

January 13, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 8 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!


Jacques Portrait

We are now just 8 days from the sailing of the Maiden Voyage, and as promised, I offer you another one of the final sneak peeks at Marina before she is revealed to the world. Today I share with you the portrait and podium at the entrance to Jacques, one of Marina’s new restaurants and the first to bear Jacques Pepin’s name. The eclectic styling gives the space the feel of a Parisian bistro. Notice the exquisite detail on the chair.

Jacques entrance Jan 11

Jacques Chair Jan 11
For the menu, Master Chef Pepin reinvented several French classics, and the restaurant will also feature a glass and brass show rotisserie where succulent meats will be roasted to perfection.  You will not want to miss the Saucisse de Lyon aux Pistaches - Jacques’ signature Truffle and Pistachio Warm Sausage over Lyonnaise Potato Salad.  Or the Coquilles Saint-Jacques au Four – Gratinated Traditional Scallops in Shell with Mushroom Duxelle. And of course you won’t be able to pass up Jacques’ Favorite Apple Tart with Hazelnut Cream. This restaurant will no doubt give new meaning to the phrase, “Bon Appetit!”

Check back tomorrow for another sneak peek as we enter the final week prior to Marina's Maiden Voyage!


December 8, 2010


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 30, 2010

Bringing Out the Fine China

Jacques China-2
We here at Oceania Cruises hope that everyone enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones over this holiday weekend. Many of you may have brought out the fine china to serve dinner on this special holiday. So it seems appropriate timing that we too are rolling out our new custom-designed china for Marina's specialty restaurants, Jacques and Red Ginger.

For the first restaurant to ever bear his name, Master Chef Jacques Pepin created exquisite dishes that merit presentation on only the finest of place settings. So we have ensured that the china on which each course is served will reflect the creativity and sophistication of the menu as well as the comfortable, eclectic ambiance of the Parisian-style bistro. Jacques China-3

Jacques China-5
Oceania Cruises gave thanks this holiday for its talented group of chefs and culinary directors who created the contemporary interpretations of Asian classics for Red Ginger. The china for Red Ginger had to hold its own amidst the striking, modernist decor while complementing the elegant menu. We think these sharp, eye-catching patterns succeed at both.Red Ginger China-1

Red Ginger China-2
Red Ginger China-3 Our Oceania Cruises family has much to be thankful for this holiday season. We are certainly thankful that Marina is nearly ready for her maiden voyage, but most of all, we are thankful for all of our guests who will travel with us onboard this year and for years to come.

Happy Holidays!

September 27, 2010

Marina Goes To Sea for the First Time

This past Friday, Marina took to the seas for the very first time under her own power and performed magnificently! Onboard, there were representatives from the shipyard along with our Marine and Techicnical teams who were measuring and evaluating hundreds of different items, systems and performance factors.

She cruised up to 22 knots without even trying, was able to spin a full 360 degrees in 40 seconds and there was virtually no vibration or noise. She is a very quiet, smooth ship and both the yard and our team are just thrilled with how she handles.

After spennding three days at sea, she returned to Genoa to undergo a routine drydocking.

Overall, the ship looks magnificent and is coming along very nicely. They are outfitting the suites, staterooms and public areas and the progress they are making is in incredible. Below are some great images from this past weekend, I hope you all enjoy them and they bring as much excitement to our blog fans as they did to our entire team!

Marina takes to the sea for the very first time

Marina September 24 036 med 
The commanding view from the bridge

Marina September 24 046 med 
The beautiful, terraced upper decks

Marina September 24 061 med 
The expanse of open decks is very, very impressive. Lots of elbow room and places to sit in sun or shade.

Marina September 24 091 med resize 
This is the deck outside Baristas and the Library. We are installing wind breaks and awnings to create a wonderful, alfresco coffee area.

Marina September 24 182 med 
This area already has a very stately feel to it, I can not imagine how stunning it will look once the elevator fronts are done and the Lalique crystal is installed.

MarinaJacques 09 24 183 med 
Jacques is already starting out as the favorite room of many. The charm and detailing of this space is unlike anything found at sea. Most of the antique elements such as the oak flooring which came from a century old French barn, or the 18th century console in the foyer have yet to be installed. C'est magnifique!

Marina September 24 295 med 
This is the view from the top deck as we sailed back in to Genoa on Sunday. We're looking forward from the area where the fitness track and croquet court are.

Marina September 24 316 med 
Marina arrives in the Genoa drydock where the final outfitting work will be carried out.

August 22, 2010

Onboard and Ashore with Master Chef Jacques Pépin

Pepin and Chefs

Joining our journey from Copenhagen to Lisbon these past two weeks, Master Chef Jacques Pépin has once again treated guests onboard Insignia to the cruise experience of a lifetime. He has hosted cooking demonstrations, given lectures, signed autographs, and of course created culinary masterpieces. While in Bordeaux, Pépin savored the opportunity to shop the Marche des Capucins, a local farmers' market that is the place to go for those seeking fresh seafood, produce and other wares. He is pictured above with Chef Jean-Claude Szurdak and Insignia's Executive Chef Renald.

Pepin at Marche du Capucins  

The market offered an immense array of choices.

Pepin Picks Peaches
Choosing the best of the best from the selection of peaches 

Pepin Oyster Lunch
After a strenuous day of shopping, Pépin and company enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh oysters on the half shell at a local seafood restaurant. 

A lovely day in Bordeaux came to an end, and Insignia sailed for St. Jean de Luz. Meanwhile, Chefs Pépin and Szurdak made good use of their fresh finds, which inspired a special poolside patio dinner for guests of Insignia's Vista and Owner's Suites. As evidence that his talents extend beyond the kitchen, Pépin designed and hand-painted the menu for the evening. 

Pepin Pation Menu

The event was of course a rousing success. Exquisite food and pleasurable company were enjoyed by all.

The lovely place settings for the patio dinner

Patio Dinner Prep
Our chefs put the finishing touches on the first course.  

Anthony Serves Hors D'oeuvres
Anthony serves hors d'ouevres. Past guest John Caplan described Anthony as "one of the best butlers on Oceania Cruises' fleet."

Patio Dinner Wine
Select wines were chosen by Jean-Michel Gammariello to complement the evening's menu. 

Pepin and Guests
Master Chef Jacques Pépin with two of his guests  

While some have followed the work of Master Chef Pépin for years, others may not be as familiar with the storied history of this culinary legend. Pépin's passion for cooking began at a very young age in his parents' restaurant. By age thirteen, he had quit school and become a chef's apprentice. In the 1950's Pépin cooked for French President Charles de Gaulle. On the evening of May 12, 1958, when the French government was in crisis, Pépin was asked to stay and cook for the politicians who would spend the entire night negotiating the future of France's democracy. In the 1960's Pépin came to New York where he continued to work in restaurants, earned a degree from Columbia University, and was soon acquainted with the most influential names in American cuisine, including Julia Child and James Beard. Pépin went on to become a teacher, writer, television personality and an advocate, along with Julia Child, for the development of culinary programs in academia, particularly influencing the creation of a masters program with a concentration in gastronomy at Boston University. His celebrated La Technique is used to this day as a textbook for teaching the fundamentals of French cuisine. Several of his books have launched acclaimed television series, such as The Complete Pépin, Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way, and Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, in which he costarred with Julia Child.

Needless to say, Oceania Cruises has been honored to have Master Chef Jacques Pépin onboard Insignia, and we've been thrilled to have him in the role of Executive Culinary Director. With such talent behind our culinary design, it is no wonder that Oceania Cruises continues to serve cuisine that rivals the best restaurants ashore.