58 posts categorized " Nautica "

September 9, 2014

OCEANIA CRUISES UNVEILS NEW 2015-2016 WINTER COLLECTION

Today Oceania Cruises is thrilled to unveil our new collection of itineraries for the 2015-2016 winter season. Of these 42 destination-rich sailings, 27 are unique new itineraries never before offered, featuring 12 exciting new ports of call:

Reservations open on September 17, at 8:30 am EST, so now is the perfect time to begin planning your dream voyage to whichever corner of the globe intrigues you most. Here are the regions where each ship will sail and highlights of some of the fascinating new itineraries.

TierraFuego_Ushuaia_shutterstock_1371166
Tierra del Fuego, South America

REGATTA: The Americas

In addition to Caribbean sailings and four voyages traversing the Panama Canal, Regatta explores South America at length, including two new Amazon River cruises and the new Alluring Andes & Majestic Fjords itinerary, departing Lima on February 7, 2016, and sailing around the southernmost tip of the continent. Marvel at Machu Picchu perched high in the Andes, cruise the magnificent Chilean Fjords and Tierra del Fuego, and explore vibrant cities from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires.

INSIGNIA: Around the World

For the most adventurous explorers seeking the journey of a lifetime, Around the World in 180 Days sails roundtrip from Miami and circumnavigates the globe. If your time is more limited, shorter segments of this journey also traverse oceans and continents. Departing from Barbados on January 14, 2016, Atlantic Ocean Exploration calls on Caribbean and South American destinations such as Belém, the gateway to the Amazon, before crossing the Atlantic to Africa. Explore the new port of Luderitz, Namibia, the vast sand dunes of Walvis Bay, and the exotic island of São Tomé.

WalvisBay_dreamstime_29142735
Walvis Bay, Namibia


NAUTICA: Africa & Asia

Nautica calls South Africa and Asia home for a series of eight unique itineraries, six of which are new routes. The new Dynasties & Empires, departing March 4, 2016, sails from Beijing to Hong Kong and features six overnight stays to allow ample time to explore fascinating cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo. Beautiful new ports on this voyage include Shimizu, Japan, nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji, and Jeju, South Korea, known as the “Island of the Gods” for its beautiful beaches and dramatic landscapes.

BoraBora_dreamstime_37279922
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

 

MARINA: South Pacific

Opening the season with two South American voyages, Marina then sails for the South Pacific to explore lush Polynesian islands and the treasures of Australia and New Zealand. Embark in Tahiti on February 4, 2016, for the new South Pacific Serenity sailing, and you can experience the pristine beaches and sapphire lagoons of Bora Bora, Fiji and Norfolk Island, a new port of call in Australia, as well as the architectural icons of cosmopolitan Sydney.

Sydney_Marina_IMG_0024
Sydney, Australia

 

Caribbean
Castries, St. Lucia

RIVIERA: Caribbean

Riviera explores the sunny Caribbean from the ancient Mayan ruins along the western shores to the idyllic islands of the east. What better way to spend the holiday season than on the new cruise Celebrate the Sunshine, which sails roundtrip from Miami on December 22, 2015, and spends 12 glorious days in gorgeous locales such as St. Barts, Martinique, St. Lucia and Antigua.

May 16, 2014

NAUTICA EMERGES WITH MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR RENOVATIONS AND ENHANCED BULGARI AMENITIES

Main-loungeOceania Cruises continues a massive $50 million refurbishment of its fleet as Nautica emerges from dry dock today. We shared some of the new enhancements when Insignia rejoined the fleet last week, but to recap, some of the highlights include elegant new decor in suites and staterooms, luxurious new furnishings in lounges, and beautiful new mosaics in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®. Several popular features from Marina and Riviera are also being added to the other ships in the fleet, such as Baristas coffee bar, putting greens on the upper deck, and the specialty grill in Terrace Café offering cooked-to-order steaks, chops and lobster tails. Regatta will soon undergo a bow-to-stern renovation as well.

As the ships emerge fresh from their massive makeovers, guests will find some luxurious new amenities to go along with their newly appointed accommodations. The onboard selection of exclusive Bulgari amenities is being expanded and will be offered in all suites and staterooms. The expanded Bulgari program will also be featured on Marina and Riviera beginning in August.

BULGARI FINAL IMAGEBest known for its designer watches, jewelry and fragrances, Bulgari partnered with several luxury hotels to create a line of lavish bath products made with essential plant oils and silk proteins. While it has long been an amenity featured in Oceania Cruises suites and Concierge Level staterooms, Bulgari will now be available in all suites and staterooms on board all ships.

Staterooms will feature “The Blanc” amenities with a white tea scent, including shampoo, lotions, hand soaps and more. Guests in Penthouse suites and Concierge Level staterooms will now enjoy eau de cologne and aftershave balm in addition to the other products, all with “The Vert” fragrance of green tea. Guests in Owner’s, Vista and Oceania suites will choose from a new selection of three different scents and will receive a Bulgari gift set as well.

Elegance and comfort have always been hallmarks of the Oceania Cruises experience. With the multimillion-dollar renovations on Insignia, Nautica and Regatta as well as the expanded Bulgari amenities offered fleetwide, guests will feel even more pampered than ever before.

April 24, 2014

BUDDHAS AND BARGES IN BANGKOK

For many people, the changing of the seasons is heralded by the chill in the air or the blooms on the trees. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I track the seasons by following our ships’ itineraries. This month Nautica sailed from Bangkok en route to the shores of the Mediterranean, a sure sign that spring has sprung. As Nautica bids a fond farewell to Asia for the season, I wanted to share some of my highlights of the bustling city of Bangkok.

Temple on river-BangkokIf Bangkok is in your future travel plans, the city’s canals offer a wonderful way to see the sights, and the best way to navigate is with our Canals & Royal Barges shore excursion. Traditionally Thailand’s cities were protected by moats, and it was for this reason that the first klongs, or canals, were built around the Grand Palace in the late 18th century. As more were constructed, the klongs became arteries along which trade and travel unfolded. In the 20th century, modernization shifted traffic to paved roads, but a few thriving canal systems remain, where visitors can get a taste of what life was once like on the waterways.

On the Canals & Royal Barges excursion, you will be treated to a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River and through the complex network of klongs in the Thonburi district, where you’ll see floating grocery stores, speeding water taxis, teakwood houses built on stilts, and hidden temples. 

Imperial Barge Museum-BangkokKlongs were the site of magnificent royal processions filled with elaborately decorated barges designed for the royal family.  Today the royal fleet comprises a much more modest fleet, but eight of these ornate vessels can be viewed at the Royal Barges Museum across the river from the Grand Palace.

Along the Chao Phraya River across from the Grand Palace is one of the most impressive and distinct temples in Bangkok, Wat Arun. While it is believed that a Buddhist temple sat on this site at least as far back as the mid-17th century, the current structure was built in the early 19th century. 

The temple enshrined the Emerald Buddha and was part of the royal palace grounds until King Rama I moved the palace across the river, taking the treasured Buddha statue with him. Even without the statue, the temple was still revered, and later kings restored and enhanced the compound, including its most prominent feature, the Khmer-style tower that soars more than 200 feet in the air. Although the temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, who is the personification of the rising sun, you’ll discover that some of the most spectacular views of this temple will come when the sun sets.

Wat Arun Temple-2

Wat Arun Temple-3 Wat Arun Temple-4 Wat Arun Temple-Bangkok

Don’t miss your opportunity to watch the sun set on this shimmering city during an overnight stay in Bangkok on an Oceania Cruises voyage in 2015:

Photos by Peter Pretty

March 24, 2014

NATURAL WONDERS AND SCENIC CITYSCAPES OF VIETNAM

Springtime has arrived, and the ships of Oceania Cruises are gearing up for another amazing summer season. Excitement is in the air as we prepare to welcome Insignia back to the fleet, fresh from her multimillion-dollar renovations. In the meantime, guests on board Nautica aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to a wonderful winter spent exploring the coasts of Asia. This week Nautica makes her final calls on Vietnam for the season.

Today Nautica sails into Ha Long Bay, just a three-hour drive from the capital city of Hanoi. Whether guests choose to explore the natural wonders of Ha Long Bay or the city sights of Hanoi, there is no shortage of fantastic adventures in store.

The 1,600 islands and islets in Ha Long Bay form a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars, most of which are largely untouched by humans due to the precipitous nature of the rocky islands. Because of its outstanding scenic beauty as well as its geological importance, Ha Long Bay has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The arches, caves and lakes that compose the limestone karsts are the result of a unique combination of geography and climate that sculpted this distinctive landscape over millions of years.

Ha Long Bay-1

Ha Long Bay-3

A beautiful drive through the Vietnamese countryside from Ha Long Bay, Hanoi is an enchanting blend of traditional Vietnamese traditions with a French flair. The capital of Vietnam for over 1,000 years, Hanoi has long been the cultural center of the country. From the local artisans and merchants that have historically lined the streets of the Old Quarter to the French colonial architecture to the many picturesque lakes, the city has much to offer visitors.

One of its more famous landmarks tells darker tales of the city’s history. Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” was originally used by French colonialists to house political prisoners and, due to the terrible conditions, became a symbol of colonialist exploitation. During the Vietnam War, it was once again turned into an infamous prison, where the North Vietnamese Army housed and interrogated American POWs, including its most famous inmate, Senator John McCain. Though the prison was demolished in the 1990s, the gatehouse remains as a museum.

Hanoi Hilton-1

Another highlight of the city is the Presidential Palace, designed in the Beaux-Arts style favored by French architects of its time. Built between 1900 and 1906, the palace was home to French governors until the end of French occupation. When Ho Chi Minh moved into the palace estate, it is said that he eschewed the lavish setting and lived in the servants’ quarters until he built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house with a carp pond on the grounds. While the interior of the palace is closed to the public, visitors can wander the expansive gardens and compare the distinctive styles of the two residences.

Hanoi Presidential Palace

Both Nautica and Insignia will visit Ha Long Bay in 2015, and now is the perfect time to reserve your Asian cruise for next season. Each of these itineraries features an overnight stay in Ha Long Bay, so you will have plenty of time to experience the natural beauty of the bay as well as the fascinating sights of nearby Hanoi.

Photos by Peter Pretty

March 21, 2014

HONG KONG BEYOND THE SKYSCRAPERS

Hong Kong-2A world financial power of over seven million people, Hong Kong is a city that reaches for the sky with soaring high-rises that bustle by day and glitter by night. But don’t let the dazzling skyline distract you from the deeper and more contemplative side of this historic region. For underneath the hustle and bustle of this dynamic city, there is a spiritual heritage that is the center of its beating heart. Today Nautica is in Hong Kong for a two-day call, and many guests were able to get a glimpse of the spiritual culture of this region on the Lantau Island & Po Lin Monastery shore excursion.

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong and until recently was largely unpopulated except for a few fishing villages. Though recent years have seen increasing activity on the island, guests were treated to a look at what life was like just a few decades ago on a walking tour of Thai O Village on the western side of the island. The traditional stilt houses built over the water have given this scenic village the nickname “the Venice of Hong Kong.”

Tai O Village-Hong Kong

Thai O Village-Hong Kong

The main attraction of Lantau Island is Po Lin Monastery, situated on Ngong Ping plateau. From its humble beginnings as a “Big Thatched Hut” in 1906, Po Lin Monastery has become one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums, with several prominent architectural structures, rich with colorful Buddhist iconography. Home to many devout monks, the monastery has been called “the Buddhist World in the South.”

Ngong Ping Base of Buddha

Po Lin Monastery-Hong Kong

Sitting opposite the Po Lin Monastery is the world’s largest Buddha, a bronze statue built in 1993 that stands over 110 feet tall and weighs more than 275 tons. Drawing visitors from all over the world, Tian Tan Buddha (known as the “Big Buddha”) faces north to look over the people of China, with a right hand raised to deliver blessings to all.

Ngong Ping Tian Tan Buddha-Hong Kong

Ngong Ping-Tian Tan Bronze Buddha

Visitors enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains and water from the monastery complex as well as peaceful moments in the serene gardens. There is also a vegetarian restaurant that serves excellent food prepared by the monks.

Nautica will spend today and tomorrow in Hong Kong, so guests will have the opportunity to experience the thrilling energy of the city as well as the tranquil outposts that surround the metropolis. All of Oceania Cruises’ 2015 voyages offer two days in Hong Kong for this very reason:

Photos by Peter Pretty

March 5, 2014

2015 SUMMER SEASON OPENS FOR BOOKINGS

A recent study suggests that the planning stages can be one of the most pleasurable parts of a vacation. When it comes to a voyage with Oceania Cruises, nothing can possibly beat the vacation itself, but I do love all the steps leading up to the vacation. Perhaps the most exciting is the initial planning as I dream of what part of the world I might explore next. That is why this is one of my favorite times of year, because today Oceania Cruises unveils its new 2015 Summer Collection, a whole new array of itineraries that will inspire all of us to begin planning our next Oceania Cruises adventure.

Summer is always an exciting season for Oceania Cruises as the ships explore all corners of the globe, from Alaska to Scandinavia and from New England to the Mediterranean. And 2015 is no exception with 24 new ports, 40 new itineraries in Europe, five new itineraries in Alaska and autumn cruises up and down the Eastern Seaboard during the height of the beautiful fall foliage. The season’s itineraries sail from April through November, and I was thrilled to discover that a few itineraries for the 2015-2016 winter season are being unveiled early and will also be available for bookings today!

The first thing I like to do when new itineraries are released is research the new ports to find out what fascinating places have been added to an already enormous list of destinations that Oceania Cruises visits. It would be impossible to pick a favorite from the array of new destinations, but I did find myself particularly excited about Liverpool. Here in the hometown of one of history’s greatest rock bands, The Beatles Story exhibition offers a walking tour narrated by John Lennon’s sister. More distant history is revealed at the Liverpool Cathedral, which looks positively stunning in the photos I’ve seen, and I’ve read that the views from the bell tower are unbeatable.

Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral

If you read my recent blog on Barcelona, highlighting several works by Gaudí, you can probably guess that I’m a big fan of art nouveau architecture. So I was also happy to see that Glasgow, birthplace of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, will be a new port of call in the British Isles. His buildings can be found throughout the city, the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful being the Glasgow School of Art.

Another new port that caught my eye was the Solovetsky Islands, located in the White Sea off the coast of Northern Russia. After learning about Russian history on my amazing visit to St. Petersburg, I feel drawn to this isolated archipelago just a hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, as it is home to one of the most powerful monasteries of the Russian Empire. If the history isn’t enough to intrigue you, the islands’ natural beauty alone will make this an unforgettable call.

Solovetsky Islands Monastery
Solovetsky Monastery

Of course, while I may be Oceania Cruises’ Blogger-at-Large, I have not yet lived enough years to visit all of the marvelous destinations to which the ships sail. So beyond the new ports, there are also several other places the ships visit regularly that remain on my bucket list. I’ve already mentioned my fascination with Russia, and the recent Winter Olympics have showcased the beauty of Sochi, framed dramatically by the Caucasus Mountains. Departing September 7, 2014, Riviera’s Black Sea Sojourn offers the opportunity to explore this picturesque city as well as other enchanting ports along the coasts of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

The voyages to Iceland and Greenland have always called to me as well, and I can only hope that 2015 may be the year I make the trip. I like to venture off the beaten path, and the pristine wilderness of these northern treasures is sure to offer an experience like no other on board the luxurious – and newly renovatedNautica. If the raw beauty of nature appeals to you as well, you’ll have a tough time choosing between the icy grandeur of the Arctic and the untamed majesty of Alaska. There is no better way to experience Mother Nature at her best than to explore Alaska on board Regatta, also newly renovated.

Glazier Lake - Fire and Ice - Wrangell
Glacier Lake near Wrangell, Alaska

One of the most exciting things about the new 2015 summer season is that Oceania Cruises will be offering Grand Voyages in Europe. These extended voyages have been very popular in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific during recent winter seasons, and now guests will have the opportunity to linger in Europe and beyond on voyages of up to 39 days. One of the most irresistible aspects of these longer voyages is that they offer additional savings and Exclusive Prestige Package amenities, such as a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, free laundry service and other great offers.

On the heels of the overwhelmingly positive response to Oceania Cruises’ first-ever world expedition unveiled last summer, Insignia’s 180-Day World Odyssey was announced in November, and individual cruises within the 180-Day World Odyssey are now open for bookings with the launch of the 2015 summer season. Also available are another series of Grand Voyages featuring combinations of these itineraries ranging from 35 to 70 days.

With all of these extraordinary voyages being released, your biggest challenge (and greatest pleasure!) will be choosing which one you wish to sail on. You may find your choice influenced by the Culinary Discovery ToursTM offered on select sailings on board Marina and Riviera. These unique excursions offer an in-depth look at the culinary culture of destinations worldwide, with the opportunity to dine in local restaurants, take cooking classes with renowned chefs, and visit local markets, farms and wineries. We’re thrilled to be offering several new Culinary Discovery Tours in the 2015 summer season, so be sure to check out which ones are available.

Reservations are now open, so you can begin the ever so pleasant process of selecting your cruise right away. I’ve found it’s always a good idea to book early for the best fares and availability. Following are links to some cruises that include the ports I mentioned here, and you can view the entire 2015 Summer Collection by clicking the Promotions link at the very top of this page.

 

February 17, 2014

HO CHI MINH CITY AND THE VIETNAMESE COUNTRYSIDE

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

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

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

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

Mekong River Dusk

Vietnam Canal Cruise Paddler

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

Vinh Trang Buddha

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

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

Lunch at Thoi Son Island-Saigon

Thoi San Island-2

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

 Photos by Peter Pretty

February 12, 2014

HIGHLIGHTS OF SIHANOUKVILLE

Nautica is spending the winter months exploring the great cities of Asia and today calls on Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This provincial capital on the western shores of the Gulf of Thailand enjoys relatively dry weather this time of year and typically hovers between 75 and 85 degrees. By all accounts, it sounds like the perfect place to be in February!

Guests can enjoy any number of adventures during their stay in Sihanoukville. The Amazing Ream National Park shore excursion explores the beautiful national park that protects over 50,000 acres of mangrove forests, beaches, tropical jungles, a thriving monkey population and more than 150 species of birds. For a more urban experience, Oceania Cruises also offers a day trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, where guests tour lavish palaces and gardens on the Mekong River, famous pagodas and infamous relics left from the tumultuous civil war.

There is also plenty to see and do within Sihanoukville itself, as revealed on the Highlights of Sihanoukville shore excursion that spends the day exploring this recently revived city. In the 1960s, Sihanoukville was a brand new, thriving port city with golden beaches that attracted Cambodia’s elite. But war in the region led the city to fall on hard times, and the beaches and resorts lay empty for decades.

With the end of the civil war and the opening of markets in Cambodia, Sihanoukville has been one of the main areas of economic growth in the nation. It is once again a bustling resort town and has been called, “Asia’s next trendsetting beach.”

As the name suggests, the Highlights of Sihanoukville shore excursion lets guests experience all the best this port city has to offer, from its sacred sites to its delicious cuisine to its lovely beaches. Guests begin with a visit to Wat Krom, one of the most important pagodas in Sihanoukville. Built on a hill with beautiful views of the ocean, the temple offers the opportunity to see Buddhist monks chanting or young monks learning Pali, the sacred language of the Buddhist scriptures.

On the way through town, the tour passes the popular Golden Lion roundabout, named for the giant golden statues that crouch in the center of the traffic circle. The lion has become a symbol of Sihanoukville and is depicted throughout the city.

Golden Lions Sihanoukville

Guests get a taste of the local culture on a walk through the lively local market, where one can buy the extraordinary seafood for which the area is famous as well as fresh fruits and vegetables and other local goods.

The tour really gets your blood pumping with a stop at the Snake House, known for its exotic snakes and freshwater crocodiles as well as an impressive collection of tropical fish and exotic birds.

Crocs and Snake Farm-Sihanoukville

After some close encounters with the snakes and crocs, guests can recuperate from the excitement by relaxing at the luxurious Sokha Beach Resort, an idyllic, garden-like setting on the south side of Sihanoukville. Take a refreshing dip in the pool, stroll along the pristine beaches or simply sip a cool drink while musing about all of the impressive sights of Sihanoukville.

Today is Oceania Cruises’ only call in Sihanoukville for 2014, but there are two opportunities to visit in 2015. Now is the perfect time to begin planning your Asian journey with Oceania Cruises!

Photos by Peter Pretty

February 7, 2014

A MEMORABLE DAY IN SINGAPORE

SingaporeNautica has completed the Safaris, Temples & Jewels cruise, sailing from Africa across the Indian Ocean to Asia, where she will finish the winter season exploring the ancient temples and modern metropolises of this vast continent. The voyage ended with an overnight stay in cosmopolitan Singapore, and guests on the next sailing, Pagodas & Palaces, kicked off their journey with an overnight stay here as well. It’s no wonder that Nautica lingers in Singapore on several of her Asian cruises because there is so much to see and do in this bustling and beautiful city.

Known as the “Garden City,” Singapore continues to fulfill its green vision that was instituted decades ago by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the first head of the independent Republic of Singapore. Despite staggering economic growth over the past 50 years, Singapore is less a concrete jungle than a literal jungle. Its soaring skyscrapers are embraced by verdant parks and tree-lined streets.

Most recently developed were the Gardens by the Bay. Covering 177 football fields and housing 80 percent of the world’s plant species, the gardens were designed to create a continuous ring of greenery enveloping the Marina Bay area. Nautica guests on the Singapore By Boat/Trishaw–Raffles Visit shore excursion viewed these spectacular gardens from the skypark of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The vantage point offered beautiful vistas of the Supertree Grove, a cluster of enormous structures designed to provide shade and shelter while also acting as hanging gardens and rainwater catches. The Supertrees even harvest solar energy! Singapore’s commitment to “green” goes well beyond lush vegetation; the city has a master plan for environmental sustainability.

Marina Bay Sands Casino View from Marina Sands Bay hotel, Singapore (6) (Medium)

Some guests took the opportunity to further explore the expansive gardens, including the ethereal Cloud Forest, an indoor mountain showcasing an astounding diversity of plant life as well as the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The vibrant colors and sweet scents of the Flower Dome are also a highlight of these magnificent gardens.

Gardens by the Bay Tribal Masks

Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest 1 Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest 2

Gardens by the Bay Flowers 3

Gardens by the Bay Flowers 4

There is an actual city to be found in this “city within a garden,” and a cruise down the Singapore River allowed guests to enjoy views of modern skyscrapers and other important landmarks. The cruise began at Clarke Quay, which is named for the second governor of Singapore. Once the center of commerce, Clark Quay is now a bustling array of restaurants, wine bars, entertainment spots and retail stores.

Clarke Quay

Boatride Singapore (34) (Medium)

The cruise sailed by landmarks such as the Cavenagh Bridge, one of Singapore’s oldest bridges, and the Merlion statue in Merlion Park. With the head of a lion and the body of a fish, the Merlion is the mascot of Singapore, paying homage to the city’s heritage as a fishing village as well as its original name, Singapura, which means “lion city.”

Merlion

Clarke Quay

Maybank Tower

Shutterstock_91915742Guest also had the chance to experience an invigorating ride on a trishaw, Singapore’s ubiquitous bike taxis.  They rode along the streets of the Colonial District, passing St. Andrew's Cathedral before ending up at the Raffles Hotel, a must on many travelers’ lists of Singapore sights. The iconic hotel is renowned for its elegant High Tea and is also said to be the place where the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented. It was the perfect spot to stop for a bit of liquid refreshment!

For those who love the invigorating energy of a bustling city but are drawn to the lush greenery and fresh air of the pastoral countryside, Singapore has it all. If an Asian voyage with Oceania Cruises is in your plans, consider these fabulous itineraries that call on the amazing city of Singapore.

 

 

January 31, 2014

REGATTA, INSIGNIA AND NAUTICA: IMPROVING ON PERFECTION

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I have had the great fortune to sail on Regatta, Insignia and Nautica several times over the past few years. With only 684 guests on board, these ships feel as warm, welcoming and intimate as smaller vessels while also offering the conveniences and amenities of the larger ships. In other words, they are perfect. So it was hard for me to imagine how Oceania Cruises could improve on perfection.

But the folks at Oceania Cruises never stop striving to improve and innovate, and they will soon further enhance the already beloved Regatta, Insignia and Nautica by implementing the largest refurbishment program in the company’s history. The award-winning ships will undergo a $50 million transformation during the second quarter of 2014.

For those who, like me, feel the ships are perfect as they are, no need to worry. They will retain all the warmth, intimacy and charm that guests have come to cherish, but they will shine even brighter thanks to elegant new decor throughout the ships. And having received an overwhelmingly positive response to the innovations featured on board Marina and Riviera, Oceania Cruises will add many of those best-loved amenities and design elements to Regatta, Insignia and Nautica during the refits.

When the updates are complete, all guests will be welcomed with rich new decor in their suite or stateroom, imbuing their home away from home with a new sense of style, elegance and flair. Specific changes include new bathrooms with a lavish oversized shower and new onyx and granite vanities in the Owner's and Vista Suites. The Penthouse Suites will be transformed into virtual replicas of those on Marina and Riviera. All staterooms will feature luxurious new fabrics and furnishings.

Swatches

Penthouse Suite

Veranda Stateroom

Inside Stateroom

One of my favorite haunts on board is Horizons, the perfect place for socializing, relaxing or simply taking in the stunning views, and this lounge will also undergo a transformation with a new color palate and new furnishings. The Main Lounges will be completely refurbished with new carpeting, chairs and elegant new fabrics and upholstery. Martinis and the Pool Deck will both receive new furnishings, and the Canyon Ranch Spa Club® will have new steam rooms and changing rooms decorated with dramatic new mosaics and intricate custom tile work.

The Terrace Café will feature all new decor as well as a new state-of-the-art grill similar to the one on Marina and Riviera, so guests can dine on made-to-order specialties like juicy steaks, succulent lobster tails and mouthwatering chops any night they wish. As a coffee drinker, I was especially thrilled to hear that Baristas will be added in the Grand Bar area. This coffee bar is a guest favorite on Marina and Riviera and will certainly be a welcome addition to the other ships. Here master baristas prepare complimentary illy® espressos, cappuccinos and lattes and also serve fresh pastries and finger sandwiches throughout the day.

Baristas

The upper decks of the ships offer some of the greatest views of the sea, sky and coastlines, so what better place to enjoy an array of new deck games? Guests can take in the lovely vistas during a rousing game of shuffleboard or while playing a round of miniature golf on the 9-hole putting green, a feature unique to ships in this class.

Miniature golf

Fortunately we won’t have to wait long to experience these fabulous changes. Insignia will debut on May 8, 2014, in Barcelona for her 7-day Jewels of Europe cruise, and we’ll be especially excited not only to see her splendid new refurbishments but also to welcome her back to the fleet after her two-year charter. Nautica will be unveiled on May 16, 2014, in Civitavecchia for the 10-day Cliffs & Coves cruise, and Regatta will debut on June 7, 2014, in Vancouver for the 10-day Majesty of Alaska cruise. We hope to welcome you on board these refreshed, rejuvenated and resplendent ships very soon!

December 24, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES CELEBRATES THE HOLIDAYS IN FESTIVE SHADES OF BLUE

A holiday sailing is a wonderful way to celebrate this season, as the ships are decked out in their holiday finery, the atmosphere is warm and jubilant, and the spirit of the season is evident in the smiles of every guest, officer and crew member on board.

The holidays are ultimately about embracing peace, harmony and love for those with whom we share this planet, and what better way to celebrate this spirit than by traveling the world, experiencing diverse cultures and learning of our shared history.

Guests on board Riviera celebrate Christmas Eve today on the Caribbean island of Grand Turk. And while there isn’t any snow, there is no shortage of holiday glitter, for the sun shimmering on Grand Turk’s azure waters shines as brightly as any sparkling Christmas tree. In fact, while some might not associate a beach destination with the holidays, I find Grand Turk to be an excellent representation of the spirit of the season. Light is certainly one of the most powerful symbols of the holidays, from the Christmas tree lights to the Hanukkah menorah, inspiring reflection on the joys of the past year and hope for a bright future. And Grand Turk is nothing if not a testament to the beauty and power of light, as reflected in the brilliant blue waters that embrace the island.

Grand Turk Dock

Grand Turk

Grand Turk Sunset

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve sailed many seas in my day, and the waters always bring me a sense of peace, calm and awe. Perhaps that is why blue is one of my favorite holiday colors, and perhaps that is why the ships of Oceania Cruises often spend their holidays on some of the most spectacular seas in the world. Today Marina cruises the remarkable Chilean fjords, with their own shades of blue in the majestic glaciers rising from the sea. Nautica crosses the vast Indian Ocean, and Regatta sails from the Sea of Cortez, one of the most diverse seas on the planet and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Veranda Sunset Chile

From their verandas, guests will watch the sunset transform the turquoise blues of the bays into the midnight blue of the evening sea and reflect on a holiday of awe, joy and gratitude. While Elvis may have crooned melancholy lyrics about a blue Christmas, I’ll take a blue Christmas with Oceania Cruises any year!

If you’d like to spend the holidays with Oceania Cruises in 2014, take a look at the festive sailings below:

 

November 18, 2013

A DAY IN FLORENCE

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

View of Florence

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

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

Basilica di Santa Croce Basilica di Santa Croce Door

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

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

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

Lunch Caprese Salad

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

Ponte Vecchio

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

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

Palazzo Vecchio Neptune

Plaza Vecchio David

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

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

September 18, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES UNVEILS THE 2014-2015 WINTER COLLECTION

Today, Oceania Cruises announced its 2014-2015 Winter Collection, the largest winter launch in the company’s history. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, this is one of my favorite times of year as the future becomes full of new opportunities to see the world! And on Insignia’s Around the World in 180 Days voyage, you can, quite literally, sail around the entire world.

With new ports in Asia, Africa and the Americas, Oceania Cruises’ five ships—Riviera, Marina, Nautica, Insignia and Regatta—will visit five continents. The launch features a record-breaking 86 voyages, 44 of which are new itineraries, plus 19 all-new Grand Voyages ranging from 24 to 71 days and 15 Around the World itinerary combinations as part of Insignia’s epic Around the World in 180 Days cruise.

As always, luxury meets value with Oceania Cruises, and all 2014-2015 Winter Collection voyages feature two-for-one cruise fares and free airfare. Guests who book a veranda or higher category by December 31, 2013, will enjoy the added value of free pre-paid gratuities, free unlimited Internet and early booking savings of up to $5,000.

Riviera in the Caribbean 

Riviera offers 12 itineraries exploring the lovely islands of the Caribbean. Relax on one of my favorite beaches, Cane Garden Bay on Tortola, or take a shore excursion from Tortola to Virgin Gorda and the famous Baths during the new 10-day cruise, Heart of the Caribbean.

Cane Garden Bay Tortola The Baths Virgina Gorda
 

Marina in Paradise

Marina begins the season in Rio de Janeiro with two South American voyages before heading to the South Pacific and Australia. Quickly making it onto my wish list for 2015 is the new 10-day cruise Picturesque Polynesia, which leisurely explores the Polynesian islands, including an overnight in Papeete, two overnights in Bora Bora and calls on other idyllic isles such as Moorea and Huahine.

Moorea
 

Nautica from Africa to Asia

Nautica returns to Africa and Asia with eight itineraries ranging from 15 to 35 days, stopping in ports from Cape Town to Beijing and Dubai to Tokyo and featuring two new ports in South Africa: Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth. One of the best things about visiting Africa and Asia onboard Nautica is the abundance of overnight stays. You’ll especially appreciate the extra time when exploring the grand metropolises of Asia and savoring spectacular views like the Hong Kong skyline at night.

Hong Kong-2
 

The Panama Canal & South America on Regatta

Regatta spends the season exploring the Caribbean and South America with several cruises through the Panama Canal. If you have never sailed across the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal, this is the perfect opportunity to check this astounding experience off your bucket list.

Around the World with Insignia

INSIGNIA_008After a Caribbean and an Amazon cruise, Insignia departs on Oceania Cruises’ first-ever Around the World in 180 Days cruise. This extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime voyage sails round-trip from Miami and circumnavigates the globe, visiting five continents, 44 countries and 89 ports of call.

Around the World itinerary combinations, ranging from 34 to 128 days, will open for bookings with the 2014-2015 Winter Collection launch, offering a unique array of exotic ports in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.

Guests booking these combinations will receive complimentary amenities from the Exclusive Prestige Package. Depending on the length of the voyage reserved, amenities include a one-night pre-cruise luxury hotel stay, access to exclusive shoreside events, a comprehensive visa package, laundry service, luggage delivery, round-trip transfers, Internet service and pre-paid gratuities.

All New Grand Voyages

Included in the unveiling of the 2014-2015 Winter Collection are 19 new Grand Voyages that blend multiple itineraries for in-depth exploration. These voyages feature two-for-one cruise fares and free airfare as well as Exclusive Prestige Package amenities, depending on the length of the voyage reserved. For bookings made by December 31, 2013, these voyages also offer free pre-paid gratuities and free unlimited Internet for all suite and stateroom categories.

For more information on the 2014-2015 Winter Collection, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call 800-531-5658. We look forward to welcoming you onboard one of these fantastic sailings!

September 16, 2013

10TH-ANNIVERSARY SAILING CONCLUDES A YEAR OF CELEBRATION

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

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

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

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

Toscana
Gala Tea with Chef

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

 

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

September 10, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES FOUNDING CHAIRMAN JOE WATTERS HOSTS 10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING

IMG_3297
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.

DSC_2008 DSC_2042

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.

DSC_2060
So far it has certainly been a celebration befitting the extraordinary milestone of a decade at sea!

 

September 3, 2013

HIGHLIGHTS OF LISBON

25 April Bridge and OCToday Nautica called on Lisbon, Portugal, a beautiful city with a rich blend of historic neighborhoods and modern architecture. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, this is one of my favorite places to visit, so I wanted to share some highlights of this captivating city.

25 April BridgeSailing into port, one of the first sights is the 25th of April Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects Lisbon to Almada on the south bank of the Tagus River. This bridge might prompt you to double check your itinerary, as it strongly resembles the Golden Gate Bridge. Considering its beauty and elegance, it’s no wonder that bridges around the world have incorporated elements of its design.

Monument of the Discoveries leftAfter enjoying the scenic sail in, a good place to begin exploring Lisbon is the impressive Monument of Discoveries on the north bank of the Tagus River. Completed in 1960, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. The main statue at the front is Henry the Navigator, an important explorer in the early days of the Age of Discovery. Flanking each side of the monument are 33 historic figures from this dynamic time in Portuguese world exploration.

Culrtural Center of BelemNearby is the Cultural Center of Belém, built to accommodate the administration of Portugal’s European Union Presidency in 1992. After the administration’s term expired, the space was adapted for conferences, exhibitions and live performances. Lisbon offers a fascinating array of architectural styles, as can be seen by contrasting this modern structure with the 18th century National Palace of Belém that stands nearby.

Just across the street can be found another architectural contrast in the remarkable Hieronymites Monastery, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 along with the Tower of Belém. Completed in 1601 after 100 years of construction, it has been described as Portuguese art at its best. While I have a limited familiarity with Portuguese art, it is difficult to imagine a more impressive example. A prominent monument to the Portuguese Age of Discovery, the magnificent church represents the most elaborate expression of the unique Manueline style that distinguishes Portuguese architecture of the period. The final resting place of Vasco de Gama, the monastery also houses the Maritime Museum and the National Archaeology Museum.

Hieronymites Monastery left Hieronymites Monastery 2

Hieronymites Monastery 3

You can visit all of these wonderful places in the parish of Belém, and that is only one of several fascinating neighborhoods in Lisbon. For remarkable views of the entire city, head east to the historic Alfama district and St. George’s Castle, or Castelo de São Jorge in Portuguese. Perched at the top of one of the highest hills in Lisbon, the imposing castle overlooks the historic city center. While the oldest remains found on this site date back to the sixth century BC, the existence of the castle dates back to the 11th century. In this historic edifice, King Manuel I welcomed Vasco de Gama home from his voyage to India, and the castle was also the site of the first Portuguese theatrical performance.

Castelo de Jorge Castelo de Sao Jorge 2

Lisbon has many other charming neighborhoods to explore as well, each with its own unique appeal, and I look forward to sharing more highlights soon. If you wish to experience this enchanting city for yourself, there are several opportunities to travel to Lisbon with Oceania Cruises: 

August 26, 2013

A FOODIE IN DUBLIN

Image77B6349E-AA12-4BBE-BCD4-060BA4A91A5ENautica spent the weekend on the lush coasts of Ireland, calling on the nation’s capital of Dublin. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently shared some of the fun I had taking in the famous sights from Trinity College to Dublin Castle to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Today I’d like to share another great way to experience Dublin: eating and drinking your way through the city.

One can’t discuss Irish cuisine without mentioning the potato. And I certainly enjoyed my fair share in Dublin, from mashed to roasted to boiled to fried. But the delights of Irish cuisine extend far beyond this staple and even well beyond the traditional Irish stew or bacon and cabbage.

Of course, being in Dublin, I had to pop into a pub and try some of these classics, and I was not disappointed. I began the morning with a traditional Irish breakfast of fried eggs, rashers, Irish bangers, boxty, and black and white pudding. For those not familiar with Irish culinary terms, that translates as fried eggs, bacon, sausage links, potato cakes and more sausage. “Pudding” refers to many dishes in the British Isles, several of which do not resemble the American notion of pudding. Black and white puddings are types of sausage, and Yorkshire pudding is a puffed, golden batter often baked in the drippings of the roast beef with which it is served.

ImageDF881B8A-266A-497D-AB3A-08D9DD6ED432

Breakfast

An Irish breakfast is not only immensely satisfying but also properly prepares you for a day of sampling traditional Irish beverages. I began with a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, which, thanks to a 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759, remains at its original site at St. James’s Gate. The site was chosen for its access to pure water, one of beer’s four essential ingredients, that flows from the Wicklow Mountains above Dublin. Also essential are the highest quality barley, hops and yeast. The yeast used in Guinness is so precious that a reserve supply is kept locked in a safe.

ImageDA864232-0A12-42B1-B954-923FD5E37C70

Guiness Storehouse

I concluded my visit by learning how to pour the perfect Guinness. There are several secrets to this technique, including the tulip-shaped glass, the 45-degree angle of the first pour, the patience for it to settle, and the reverse angle of the tap that allows the second, direct pour to create the perfect foam head. But to truly appreciate why it takes so long for the bartender to pour your Guinness, you’ll have to visit the storehouse yourself and get certified on pouring the perfect pint!

Image1655DA9C-FEEA-469E-8690-5CAB46097191 ImageD7F301F3-095D-499F-B120-D616E71E4544

Image9BB72E24-521D-498F-B216-D2F620BA5070

 

I fortified myself with some fish and chips before proceeding to the second historic establishment on my Irish foodie tour – the Old Jameson Distillery. Located on the site of the original distillery established by John Jameson in 1780, the tour revealed the history of the famous whiskey and the secret to its smooth, triple-distilled taste. At the end of the tour, a taste test pits Jameson against two other popular whiskeys. It was a highly effective marketing technique, as the competitors left me a bit sour-faced, but the Jameson went down smooth as silk. It was especially good paired with ginger ale in Jameson’s signature cocktail!

Lunch

Image23B111DB-8FCA-4519-A24D-281FF01A5D85

Jamison sour face ImageD3403078-C6F1-4790-9374-62A71D589810

Having learned the secrets to two of Dublin’s signature drinks, it was time for some more delicious Irish food. For dinner I took the recommendation of fellow blogger Chef Kelly of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, and she did not steer me wrong.

Marco Pierre White is an infamous British celebrity chef turned restaurateur. Talented Dublin chefs purvey his vision of simple, back-to-basics, perfectly executed cuisine in the warm, comfortable and romantic environment of Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill. Irish steaks, chops and seafood are complemented by a few international specialties, such as shaved ham from Bayonne, France, served with a celeriac rémoulade. Most dishes feature the finest ingredients from throughout Ireland, from the beetroot salad with Ryefield goat cheese to the double Dreenan pork chop, the Ballycotton smoked salmon and the fish and chips with mushy peas. Each dish was perfectly prepared, and the flavors were exquisite.

Marco 1 Marco 2

Marco 3 Marco 4

I was certainly satiated by my foodie’s tour of Dublin. If you have the opportunity to visit, be sure to enjoy some fabulous Irish cuisine while exploring all of the historic sights. Oceania Cruises offers several sailings that call on Dublin in 2014:

 

August 2, 2013

THE AMAZING GEIRANGERFJORD

Guests onboard Nautica recently visited the incredible Geirangerfjord on Voyage of the Midnight Sun, and this weekend Marina’s guests will also have the opportunity to see this breathtaking destination on the Isles & Fjords voyage.

Just northeast of Bergen, Geirangerfjord is one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords and is considered an archetypal fjord landscape. Its exceptionally captivating beauty derives from its narrow canal flanked by steep-sided rock walls that rise over 4,500 feet above sea level and descend more than 1,500 feet below.

Geirangerfjord

The sheer walls of the fjord have numerous waterfalls, the most famous being the Seven Sisters. The falls are made up of seven separate streams, the tallest cascading from a height of 820 feet.

Water Falls in the Fjord
At the head of this nine-mile fjord is the little village of Geiranger, where Marina will stop on this journey so that guests can further explore this astounding fjord.

Highlights of a shore excursion in Geirangerfjord include Eagle's Bend, a viewpoint reached by a meandering road of switchbacks and hairpin turns that climbs to a fantastic vista of the scenic mountains and the fjord below. At Flydal Gorge, the view towards the fjord is also superb. The ship in the distance looks like a toy boat, giving you a perspective on the soaring height of the mountain cliffs that embrace the fjord.

Lupines overlooking fjord

Equally scenic is the lovely Djupvatn Lake. Usually covered by ice and snow until the end of June, the lake lies over 3,000 feet above sea level and is part of the Otta river system.

Lake Djupvatn fishing house Lake Djupvatn

Next year offers just a single opportunity to visit the magnificent Geirangerfjord, when Nautica sails there on Path of the Midnight Sun, which departs on August 2, 2014. Don’t miss the chance to see one of the most fantastic fjords in the world! 

 

Photos by Peter Pretty

July 22, 2013

NAUTICA GUESTS FOLLOW THE MIDNIGHT SUN

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

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

1 Kristiansand Shores

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

2 Bergen 2 Bergen Grieg's House

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

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

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

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

4 Hammerfest Sami Camp Excursion 4 Wild Reindeer

4 Sami Elder 4 Sami Herders

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

5 Magdalene Bay

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

Copenhagen Canals

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

 

Photos by Peter Pretty

June 6, 2013

ICONS OF THE ETERNAL CITY

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

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

Image93D2A9CD-6AF2-4CA2-A871-79C668B3600F

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

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

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

Image1397755C-13F6-43C3-9193-0D203DEC6BAE

Image0942CD07-0337-40E3-9700-559BCDE30939 Image5C2F5FF3-D209-4537-B513-22C1DEF67501

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

LPS Espresso Trevi Fountain Trevi fountain 2

Trevi Fountaoin and LPF Spanish Steps

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

Pantheon panorama

Image23BE14EF-ECB1-4CC2-BD1A-2C764B1A7C20 Pantheon Outside

Pantheon Alter

Pantheon Inside

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

The Piazza della Rotunda 2

The Piazza della Rotunda 3

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

Lunch 2 Lunch

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

Piazza Navona Sant'agnese in Agone church

Piazza Navona 2

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

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

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

Piazza del Campidoglio

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

Forum Forum 2

Colosseum close

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

April 26, 2013

50 DAYS AT SEA FOR 50 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

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

DSC07229

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

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

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

DSC07487 (1) DSC07495 (2)

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

DSC07605 (1) DSC07618 (1)

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

DSC07653 DSC07635 (1)

DSC07638 (1)

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

DSC07672

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

DSC07746 (1) DSC07748 (1)

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

  DSC07758

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

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

 

April 23, 2013

LOCAL CHEFS TEACH THE SECRETS OF THAI CUISINE

Anyone who has ever sailed with Oceania Cruises knows that cuisine is a very important part of the experience. From its very beginnings 10 years ago with the appointment of Master Chef Jacques Pépin as Executive Culinary Director, to the exceptional onboard specialty restaurants at no additional charge, to the Bon Appétit Culinary Center offering hands-on cooking classes, Oceania Cruises is unrivaled in its dedication to the culinary arts.

Of course, considering the fascinating worldwide destinations that Oceania Cruises visits, the opportunities for culinary enrichment are as abundant ashore as they are onboard. Numerous shore excursions are available that allow foodies to learn about diverse world cuisines. These excursions were especially appealing to guest lecturer Don Campbell, who recently shared his expertise with guests onboard Nautica.

After a 24-year career with the US Coast Guard, Don traveled the world as a program manager in the aerospace and defense industries. His extensive travels fueled a lifelong passion for discovering world cultures, and he especially enjoys interacting with local people and learning about their art and cuisine. During his voyage onboard Nautica, Don had the chance to not only share his valuable insights with guests but also extend his own knowledge even further on the Thai Cooking Class shore excursion offered in Ko Samui. Don took some great photos during the class and was kind enough to share them with us.

Thai Cooking Class (2)

For Thai food lovers, this excursion was an excellent opportunity to learn some of the secrets to preparing this delicious cuisine. The day began with a trip to a Thai market to pick out the fresh ingredients that would be used in the class. Walking through the lively market, guests got a feel for life on the island of Ko Samui as the locals shopped for their own daily staples.

Ko Samui market (1) Ko Samui market (2) Ko Samui market (Medium)

Having purchased the ingredients for the class, the group drove to the Nora Beach Resort & Spa, where the cooking class was taught. After being welcomed with a traditional Thai beverage, guests rolled up their sleeves and got to it. Guests had individual cooking stations and, using the ingredients purchased at the market, prepared a delicious Thai meal.

Thai Cooking Class (1) Thai Cooking Class (5) Thai Cooking Class (6)

After a satisfying Thai feast, guests enjoyed some time to relax and explore the lovely resort.

Thai Cooking Class Ko Samui (5) Thai Cooking Class Ko Samui (Medium)

If your mouth is watering after all this discussion of Thai food, you’ll be happy to know that Nautica will be back in Ko Samui on the Pagodas & Palaces sailing on February 6, 2014. You, too, could learn to prepare authentic Thai cuisine on a wonderful voyage with Oceania Cruises!

March 18, 2013

THOROUGHLY MODERN SHANGHAI

Guests on the Pearls of the Far East voyage onboard Nautica had the opportunity to experience one of the most modern forms of transportation during an overnight stay in Shanghai. The Maglev Train & Pudong shore excursion includes a thrilling ride on the Maglev Train and visits the spectacular skyscrapers of the Lujiazui area in the new Pudong District.

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai09 Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai08

Using groundbreaking German technology, the Maglev Train, short for Magnetic Levitation Train, is Shanghai’s newest, state-of-the-art high-speed train and what many believe to be the 21st century’s revolutionary mode of transportation. With no wheels, the train floats on an electromagnetic cushion and is propelled along a guide way using electromagnetic fields.

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai04 Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai05

The Maglev runs 20.5 miles from Long Yang Lu Station to the Pudong International Airport and can reach speeds of up to 310 miles per hour. It regularly travels 268 miles per hour during daily service, making it one of the fastest commercial train services in the world. On an eight-minute ride to the Pudong Airport, passengers experienced the sensation of flying as the train instantly accelerated to maximum speed.

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai02 Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai03 Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai01

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai13At Pudong, guests disembarked for a fascinating tour of China’s financial center, which was developed from farmland only in the last two decades. Built in 1999 and towering over 1,300 feet above Shanghai, the Jin Mao building is the seventh tallest building in the world. From the 88th floor, guests had the opportunity to see the city from one of its highest vantage points, observing the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower and many others. 

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai16

 

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai17

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai18

After enjoying breathtaking views of this thoroughly modern city, there was time to do more sightseeing in the area.

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai12 Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai11

If you haven’t had the chance to explore some of Asia’s most exciting ports, including Shanghai, there are several opportunities to do so on Oceania Cruises sailings, including Pearls of the Orient on February 22, 2014, and Ode to the Emperors on March 10, 2014. We’ll look forward to seeing you on the high seas or perhaps high above Shanghai!

Maglev Train & Pudong in Shanghai19

March 6, 2013

YOUR WORLD ON SALE

The worldwide celebration of our 10th Anniversary continues! Today, we announced that we have earmarked 10 sailings across four continents with special savings as part of our 10th Anniversary Your World on Sale promotion. The new promotion includes a $500 shipboard credit, free pre-paid gratuities, a free unlimited Internet Package, 50 percent off deposits and Business Class air upgrades from $799 per person, one-way, on select sailings.  

As always, guests will receive two-for-one cruise fares and free airfare, delivering additional value. The new Your World on Sale promotion is available for new cruise reservations booked now through May 31, 2013.

The Your World on Sale promotion is applicable on the following 2013 sailings:

Riviera

August 16: Treasures & Monuments | Istanbul to Rome | 12 days

September 29: Romance & Rivieras | Lisbon to Monte Carlo | 12 days

October 25: Paths of the Byzantines | Venice to Istanbul | 12 days

November 6: Continental Quest | Istanbul to Barcelona | 12 days

Regatta

August 22: Ultimate Panama Canal | San Francisco to New York | 21 days

Marina

October 29: Glorious Shores | Venice to Barcelona | 12 days

November 10: Treasures of the Ancients | Roundtrip Barcelona | 10 days

December 8: South American Holiday | Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso | 20 days

December 28: Pacific Paradise | Valparaiso to Papeete | 18 days

Nautica

November 4: Classic Mediterranean | Roundtrip Barcelona | 10 days

We hope you will be able to join us on one of these fantastic voyages. To make reservations or for more information, visit www.OceaniaCruises.com, call Oceania Cruises at 800-531-5658 or contact your travel agent. Please refer to promotion code YW02013.

 

February 25, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES LAUNCHES FIRST-EVER TV ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN

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

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

 

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

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

February 18, 2013

WENDY PERRIN AND TOM DEFRANK ARE FEATURED GUEST SPEAKERS ON TWO EXTRAORDINARY VOYAGES

Two of Oceania Cruises’ upcoming spring sailings will feature special guests who will share fascinating insights and stories to make your cruise even more enjoyable. There is still time to reserve a suite or stateroom onboard one of these voyages, but availability is limited, so if you’d like to explore the world with the benefit of some of the most trusted experts in their fields, be sure to reserve your cruise soon!

Tom DeFrank

Tom-DeFrankGuests onboard Nautica’s April 29, 2013, Temples and the Holy Land sailing will be joined by very special guest Tom DeFrank. A veteran reporter who has been part of the White House press corps during the administrations of eight presidents, DeFrank will weave his stories, both published and unpublished, into a compelling, entertaining presentation that will be as captivating as the ports featured on this once-in-a-lifetime voyage.

Newsweek’s White House correspondent for more than 25 years and current Washington bureau chief for New York Daily News, DeFrank has been described by ABC news as “impeccably sourced,” “well-connected” and “legendary,” and the American Journalism Review named him “one of the unsung heroes of Washington journalism.”

With a front row seat for every major political event of the last 40 years, DeFrank reported on the resignation of one president and the impeachment of another, was a witness to two assassination attempts against a third and co-authored Secretary of State James Baker’s memoirs.

DeFrank developed an extraordinary relationship with former President Gerald Ford through a series of interviews spanning from 1991 to shortly before Ford’s death in 2006, in which Ford talked openly in a way few presidents ever have. In these conversations, DeFrank got an intimate look at Ford’s insightful perspective on many of the most important events of our time.

A regular on international trips, DeFrank has been to every port on this sailing and will have fascinating stories about his encounters with presidents, heads of state and dignitaries specific to this region. 

Wendy Perrin

Wendy-PerrinIf you have been reading The Perrin Report, Wendy Perrin’s practical advice column in Condé Nast Traveler, you know that flying on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday means lower fares and less crowded cabins and that midday Tuesday is the time to find the best sales on airfares. For 16 years, Perrin has been offering advice to travelers and is considered an authority on consumer travel issues.

Oceania Cruises guests onboard Marina’s May 6, 2013, Grand Panama Canal voyage will visit some of the most beautiful places on earth while learning fascinating travel tips from this internationally acclaimed travel expert and author.

Perrin is the author of the critically acclaimed Wendy Perrin’s Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know, and her newsletter, The Perrin Postcard, is emailed to 200,000 subscribers monthly. Her feature “The Fabulous 50,” in which she enjoys an insider’s look at some of the rarest sights on earth, was a 2006 finalist for a National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s most prestigious editorial award.

Honored with the 2005 Travel Journalist of the Year award by the American Society of Travel Agents, Perrin frequently gives lectures and moderates panels at conferences and Condé Nast Traveler events. She has also appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and several CNN programs.

Drawing from her vast knowledge of how best to travel as well as her experience traversing the globe, Perrin will regale guests with practical knowledge and lively stories about places that every travel lover should visit.

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.

Image145
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.

Riviera Galley Tour26

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.

Photo 20 Photo 7 Photo 22

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.

Photo 1-3
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

 
Photo 33
Baby Shrimp and Avocado Cocktail with Marie-Louise Sauce
Photo 4
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!

Photo 2-3
Canyon Ranch Vegetable Caponata on Roasted Red Pepper Dressing with Crispy Sardinian Bread
Photo 4-4
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.

Photo 2-4 Photo 3-3 Photo 32

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. 

Image035
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.

February 1, 2013

MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

Pepin
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.

December 18, 2012

‘TIS THE SEASON TO EXPLORE THE MALDIVES

As winter sets in, Oceania Cruises ships are making their way to warmer climates, and Riviera isn’t the only ship visiting breathtaking beaches. Today Nautica is in Malé, Maldives, en route to Cape Town on one of the more diverse itineraries offered, Lands of Grandeur. The voyage takes a full month to explore from Dubai to Cape Town and everywhere in between.

Maldives (8) (Large)

The first and most obvious thing to mention about the Maldives is the beaches. A renowned vacation paradise, the Maldives is a chain of coral islands located on top of a vast mountain range in the Indian Ocean. The weather is almost always perfect, the water is as pristine as any in the world and the beaches are stunning. There are a couple of “beach escape” shore excursions that will take you to nearby island paradises. These are perfect for anyone interested in snorkeling and swimming in perfectly crystal clear blue waters or lounging in a beach chair amidst the beautiful scenery.

Dhonveli, Maldives (1) Dhonveli, Maldives (2)

Dhonveli, Maldives (3) Dhonveli, Maldives

The Maldives is mostly underwater so if you want to get a good look at the spectacular atolls, you’ll want to spend some time under the surface. You can do so without even getting wet if you explore in the comfort of the state-of-the-art submarine offered on the shore excursion Explore the Underwater World of the Maldives. You will descend 120 feet below sea level where you will enjoy thrilling, panoramic, up-close views of the colorful coral and exotic marine life.

Oceania - Maldives Submarine Experience (3) Oceania - Maldives Submarine Experience (1)

If you are interested in a deeper look at the culture and the history of this island chain, there is a City of Malé Walking Tour that explores the capital and some of its cultural and historic landmarks, including the Grand Friday Mosque built by the Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656.

Maldives (Large)

Whatever your yen, there are plenty of options at this fabulous port. 

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!

November 13, 2012

HAVING IT ALL ON THE ISLAND OF RHODES

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I often encounter some particularly pleasant “dilemmas” when traveling at sea. A perfect example is when I recently awakened to find myself at the island of Rhodes on a beautiful warm sunny day. My dilemma was this: should I spend my day on the gorgeous beach frolicking in the indescribably blue waters of the Mediterranean, or should I explore the beautifully preserved ancient city of Rhodes, once home to Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World?

I know this is quite an enviable challenge to face. Rest assured that I found a solution – I did both!

Walking distance from the pier where the ship docks, I found Elli Beach, a welcoming beach with everything a traveler would need to enjoy an afternoon in the sun and the warm Mediterranean waters. There are hundreds of colorful umbrellas for the fair skinned or sun shy, rented sun decks, beachfront taverns and plenty of delightful little restaurants.

P5260198 P5260181

If you haven’t fallen blissfully asleep in the warm sun or aren’t hypnotized by the gorgeous blue waters lapping gently at the shore, you can entertain yourself with the many other more adventurous activities like water sports, diving or beach volley ball.

P5260187.JPG P5260181

If you never make it off the beach, I seriously doubt you will live with any regret. That being said, I did not regret exploring the Grand Masters Palace in the old town of Rhodes.

P5260195.JPG P5260186

But first, let me address the Colossus of Rhodes, because if you are anything like me, you may be wondering, if it is so colossal, where is it?! A towering monument to the Golden Age of this island, the colossus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Only one of these wonders, the Great Pyramid of Giza, remains relatively intact today. It took 12 years to build the Colossus of Rhodes, which is thought to have been completed somewhere around 290 BC. In 226 BC the statue crumbled in an earthquake, and for centuries pieces of the statue laid in the harbor. In the 7th century, Arabs captured the island and took all of the pieces of the colossus to Syria and sold it as scrap metal.

As the colossus now exists only in legend, I took a peaceful walk through the beautiful gardens just outside the Grand Masters Palace and enjoyed some lovely views of this historic site that still stands today.

P5260210.JPG - Version 2

P5260204

P5260207

P5260211 P5260213.JPG - Version 2 P5260214

The Knights of Rhodes built the Grand Masters Palace in the 14the century. Heavily fortifying the city, the Knights were able to successfully fight off invaders for over two centuries until the Ottoman Empire captured Rhodes in 1522. Under the Ottomans the palace was used as a fortress.

P5260236.JPG P5260243

P5260244

In 1856 the castle was destroyed by an enormous ammunition explosion and laid in ruins until the Italian Occupation of Rhodes in 1912. Rebuilt in a medieval style, the palace became a holiday residence for King Victor Emmanuel III and later for Benito Mussolini.

P5260221.JPG P5260222.JPG - Version 2

In 1948, after World War II, Rhodes was transferred to the Kingdom of Greece, and the Greeks converted the palace to a museum. It is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Medieval City of Rhodes.

P5260223.JPG P5260224.JPG P5260234.JPG - Version 2

What a lovely place for Nautica to visit on her final European port of call before sailing for Asia and Africa for the winter season. I can promise Nautica guests had no shortage of fascinating historic sites to explore and pleasant activities to enjoy during their stay. If the approach of winter has you eagerly planning a vacation for the summer of 2013, you should certainly consider an Oceania Cruises voyage that includes this lovely Greek island on the itinerary.

P5260247 P5260249.JPG


October 15, 2012

A DAY IN SEVILLE: THE AMAZING ALCÁZAR AND THE PATRON SAINT OF SAILORS

HotelNautica guests called on the beautiful city of Seville last week. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I wanted to share some experiences from my recent shore excursion, Heritage of Seville.  

We docked in Cádiz on a bright, sunny morning, and the trip through the scenic Spanish countryside to Seville was a treat on its own. We drove through vineyards, olive and orange groves and farms where Spain’s bulls and horses are bred.

As we arrived in the city, we were greeted by altogether different but equally impressive scenery. Lavish mansions, ornate churches and elaborate government buildings lined the streets. Lush green palms and flowering bushes seemed to sprout from the sidewalks. I was instantly charmed.

Our first stop was the stunning Palace of San Telmo, currently the seat of the presidency of the Andalusian Autonomous Government. Constructed in 1682 as a school for orphaned children of sailors, it is a gorgeous example of Sevillian Baroque architecture.

One of the more captivating aspects of the building is the Churrigueresque entrance, which was completed in 1754. This Spanish Baroque architectural style features extremely elaborate sculptural ornamentation. The 12 sculptures on each side of the balcony represent the nautical arts and sciences, and the figure at the top is Saint Telmo, patron saint of sailors – an appropriate saint to pay homage to while on a cruise!

Palacio de Sa Telmo 3 Palacio de San Telmo 4

As we continued through the city, we had the chance to see the lovely Hotel Alfonso XIII. It was completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, a world’s fair held in Seville.

Hotel 4 Hotel 5

Finally we reached the destination I had been most eagerly anticipating: the Alcázar. The oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, the Alcázar of Seville is an ornate Moorish citadel that has been the residence of Spanish royalty since the Middle Ages. The outer walls and portions of the interior are part of the original Moorish fortress.

Lion's Gate 

The stunning Hall of the Ambassadors, one of the main rooms used for public events and affairs of state, is one of the areas remaining from the original palace, so the walls date from the 11th century. This is the room where Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed Columbus upon his return from his first voyage to the New World.

Ambassador's Hall

I was mesmerized by the intricately detailed mosaics and the interesting mix of Moorish and European styles throughout the palace.

Ornate detail 2 Ornate detail 1

Ornate detail 3

The Courtyard of the Dolls is the focal point of the private section of the palace, and the patio leads to bedrooms and private halls. The hall is surrounded by a gallery with marble columns and Arab-influenced lobed arches.

Courtyard of Dolls 3 Courtyard of Dolls 4

The gardens surrounding the Alcázar are just as enthralling as the palace buildings. Our guide clearly recognized that this was the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful day, and she gave us some free time to stroll through the gardens at our leisure.

Garden of El Estanque 2 Gardens 4 Gardens 5

Garden of El Estanque 3 Garden of El Estanque3 Gardens 2

From the Courtyard of Flags at the Alcázar, there is a perfect view of the Giralda, a minaret that was converted into a bell tower for Seville Cathedral, the next stop on our itinerary. Completed in 1198, the tower is over 300 feet high and was one of the most important symbols of the medieval city.

DSC04568   DSC04575

The largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world, Seville Cathedral was completed in the early 16th century. Along with the Alcázar, the cathedral is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The astonishingly large building was constructed on the former site of a grand mosque, parts of which were preserved, including the Giralda and the Moorish entrance. Both the size and the stonework are truly breathtaking.

Cathedral DSC04576

DSC04578 DSC04580 DSC04586

At the end of the excursion, we were given time to explore on our own, and after all the walking around, I was ready for some jamón Ibérico! I found a delightful little café and enjoyed the afternoon sun and a taste of Spain. As I sat completely sated after an incredible day of sightseeing and a delicious meal, I couldn’t help but think that Seville is my newest favorite place in the world.

DSC04589

September 27, 2012

A VISIT TO MYSTICAL MONT SAINT-MICHEL

Archangel-michaelAccording to legend, Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert in 708 A.D. and asked him to build a monastery atop the rocky islet of what is now called Mont Saint-Michel. When Aubert repeatedly ignored his instructions, a frustrated Michael finally burned a hole in Aubert’s skull with his finger. And thus the phrase, “You don’t have to ask me twice,” was born.

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I took a fantastic shore excursion, Mystical Mont Saint-Michel, to this beautiful monastery built in the 8th century on an island just off the shore of France. Many guests onboard Marina enjoyed this excursion last week, and many more onboard Nautica will have the opportunity when she calls on Saint-Malo next week.

Saint-Malo is a lovely walled town with a fascinating history. I hope to be able to return and spend more time in Saint-Malo itself, especially because I heard rumors of restaurants famous for fresh seafood, crepes and other French specialties!

P1010203 - Version 3

But as a first time visitor to this area, I knew I would be making the short trip to Mont Saint-Michel, “a sublime thing, a marvelous pyramid,” as it was aptly described by Victor Hugo. I had dreamed of visiting this mystical place since I first learned of it in French class in high school. Like so many others, I was moved by the spectacular silhouette of this monastery perched in solitude on a rocky mount.

P1010133

Because the entire area is surrounded by vast, low-lying marshland, the iconic view of Mont Saint-Michel rising dramatically from the mist is visible from miles away. My first glimpse of the monastery was as impressive as I had imagined it would be. As we approached, the haze enveloping the abbey lifted, and the edifice grew even more imposing and inspiring as it sparkled in the bright summer sun. 

P1010139 - Version 2

Mont Saint-Michel is almost as famous for its tides as its monastery. The tides here are the highest in Europe. They vary greatly – roughly 46 feet between high and low tide – and can change very quickly. 

P1010162 - Version 2

As this has always been an important pilgrimage site, a causeway was built to allow pilgrims easier access to the island. This dramatically altered the flow of water in the area and led to the silting of the bay. As a result, Mont Saint-Michel is no longer surrounded by water.

P1010134A dam project, scheduled to be completed in 2015, will clear out the accumulated silt and allow tidal waters to once again flow freely around this tiny island. Visitors will no longer park at the foot of the island, so the hoards of cars and buses will not sully the view of the revered mount. Instead a separate parking lot will be built, and visitors will be shuttled to the island over a bridge.

The salt meadows surrounding the area create the ideal environment for grazing sheep – 30,000 to be exact! Salt meadow lamb is a prized delicacy served in the local restaurants, as the lambs’ high salt intake creates an especially tender and flavorful meat. 

P1010137

After navigating the sheep, we arrived at the base of Mont Saint-Michel, following in the footsteps of the millions that have flocked to this place of pilgrimage over the centuries. The site is so revered that many of the faithful settled at the foot of the mountain. Half-timbered houses were constructed, and eventually a village grew up below the abbey. Today the village is home to adorable little cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. 

P1010147 P1010150 - Version 2

A narrow cobblestone street winds through the village and up the incline to the abbey. Our guide for the day was Gil, an expert host with an encyclopedic knowledge of the region, and as we climbed, he did a wonderful job of bringing the abbey to life with stories of its fascinating history.

P1010170 - Version 2

Its location along the English Channel meant that Mont Saint-Michel held not only religious significance but also strategic significance to the various powers that ruled the region over the centuries. After the Norman conquest in the 11th century, the larger Romanesque church of the abbey was constructed. Following a devastating fire in the 13th century, the abbey underwent repairs, and a Gothic-style refectory and cloisters were added.

P1010160 - Version 2 P1010178
P1010143

The diverse architectural styles along with the natural rock are what make the abbey so extraordinary, both visually and historically. Here Gil points out one of the original walls of the monastery.

Attachment-505741281

During the French Revolution, monasticism was abolished. The abbey was closed and converted into a prison to hold clerical opponents and other high-profile political prisoners. At this time a giant wheel was constructed, and prisoners were forced to turn the wheel to operate an enormous pulley that lifted loads of stone and supplies up the mountain.

P1010184 P1010185

P1010187 - Version 2

Gargoyles adorn most of the walls and were added to divert water from the building, which seems like a far more visually interesting solution than the current gutters that frame the eaves of my house.

P1010181 P1010182

Even with the throngs of tourists that visit Mont Saint-Michel each day, the abbey inspires a sense of peace. Every aspect of the architecture – the vaults, the arches, the famous spire – was deliberately designed to turn your gaze upward toward the heavens. And when you reach the abbey’s highest point and direct your gaze downward to the sprawling countryside below, the views are equally breathtaking.

P1010180 P1010186

After visiting this remarkable place, I found myself incredibly grateful that St. Aubert finally got the hint! As reluctant as I was to leave, the tide was coming in, as if to say that my home on the sea was beckoning. I returned to the ship with memories of Mont Saint-Michel that I will cherish forever.

 

April 19, 2012

THE MAGNIFICENT TEMPLES OF ANGKOR WAT

Waterway

As destination specialists, Oceania Cruises knows how important it is to design our itineraries so that guests have plenty of time to fully experience each port of call. Moreover, we offer our guests the chance to explore even beyond the port and venture inland for a more in-depth look at the lands we visit.

As Nautica sails the enchanting coasts of Southeast Asia, a number of our adventurous guests took exploring up a notch on an overland excursion. Guests disembarked in Ho Chi Minh City and traveled to the interior of the Indochinese Peninsula to spend two days exploring Siem Reap, Cambodia, before reboarding Nautica in Bangkok.

HotelSiem Reap has rapidly become Cambodia's fastest growing city due to the tourism trade. As the French began efforts to restore the nearby ancient city of Angkor over the past century, the village of Siem Reap developed into a bustling gateway to the historic site, and European influences blended with the local Khmer and Hindu culture.

Water Fall Bright Temple
The first tourists began to arrive over a hundred years ago, and a steady stream of Europeans followed after Henri Mahout shared stories of his expedition to the "Lost City of Angkor” in the late 19th century. Located just outside Siem Reap, the ancient temples of Angkor were never actually “lost,” but Mahout’s journals popularized the site with explorers from the West.  

Angkor

Over a thousand temples can be found in the region, the most famous of which is the monumental Angkor Wat. Once the seat of the Khmer Empire, the area has a rich and colorful history, including a prolonged conflict between the Khmer and Siamese peoples that culminated in the 16th century. The Khmer victory led to the name Siem Reap, roughly translating to the "Flat Defeat of Siam,” the country known today as Thailand.

Angkor Wat 4

It has been suggested recently that Angkor was the first major urban center prior to industrialization, and some archaeologists argue the entire area of the city encompassed between 400 and 700 square miles. The region had been abandoned with the fall of the Khmer empire and overtaken by jungle vegetation, but an extensive restoration process was undertaken in the 20th century.   

Gathering

Nautica guests explored the remains of the ancient city and the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat at length, also mingling with locals who wore traditional costumes to further illustrate the history and culture of the region.

Local Flair 2

Amazing details were chiseled into the towering walls of stone throughout the temple complex.

Angkor Wat 1

Angkor Wat 2 Angkor Wat 3

Angkor Wat 5 Angkor Wat 6

The vast expanse of the ancient city took Nautica guests over rugged terrain and remnants of the invading forests to discover one treasure after another.

Roots Onlooker

Roots 1

Roots Bright

The intricate carvings and exquisite architecture that have been preserved and restored are absolutely astounding. It is no wonder that more than one day was required to take in the majesty of Angkor. 

Wall Art 1  Wall Art 2

Wall Art 3 Wall Art 4

The amazing images captured by Nautica's guests speak for themselves.
Wall Art 5

Whether by foot, animal or vehicle, millions of people visit Siem Reap and the historic city of Angkor every year. 

Traffic Traffic Way

After enjoying several days exploring the magnificent site, Nautica’s guests certainly understood why so many travelers are drawn to Angkor Wat. They would not soon forget this overland excursion with Oceania Cruises.

March 3, 2012

CHEF KELLY ANNOUNCES NEW CULINARY DISCOVERY TOURS


L1020805
I am so thrilled to announce that with the launch of Riviera this May, we will be expanding the enrichment programs of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center and introducing Culinary Discovery Tours in more than 25 ports worldwide. 

As you may have surmised from all of my market visits over the past several months, we have been developing this program for some time. I have been so excited about all of our new plans for Riviera, as well as the other ships in the fleet, and it has been nearly impossible to hold my tongue until the official announcement was made to the press. But our secret is finally out, and I’m now free to share with you all of the new Bon Appétit Culinary Center experiences that you can enjoy in 2012.

Our Culinary Discovery Tours have been uniquely designed for each port, so that guests can now join me in exploring all of these fabulous local food markets I’ve been visiting over the past year. Chef Franck Garanger and I have recruited master chefs from all over the world to join the culinary center team on Riviera and Marina in 2012, and many of these chefs will lead market tours as well.

L1020836

 

In Athens, you can visit the Agora meat and fish market and then have lunch in the Plaka. When in Barcelona, we’ll enjoy a Spanish olive oil tasting, shop at Santa Caterina Market — one of my favorites — and then finish the day with lunch at a tapas restaurant. And best of all, after many of the tours, we’ll haul all of our goodies back to the Bon Appétit Culinary Center for a cooking class inspired by our local market visit. I have so enjoyed sharing all of my market trips with you here on the blog, and it’s going to be even more fun now that guests will be able to join me. 

Santa Caterina Roof

We’ve also been feverishly working on some new curriculum for the culinary center, including classes such as Oceania Highlights, which features favorite recipes from Jacques, Red Ginger, Polo Grill and Toscana. Our guests have been clamoring to learn the secrets of these onboard restaurants forever! We’re also going to offer some shorter classes on “hot topics” in the culinary world like innovative cheeses and pairing food with cocktails. Of course, Jacques Pépin continues to be a great source of inspiration for us all, and we’re very excited to teach some of the techniques from his newest book, Essential Pépin. 

Class Shot-2
For those of you sailing on Regatta and Nautica in 2012, you’ll be thrilled to learn that you can participate in Culinary Discovery Tours as well. We’ll be combining our excursions to local markets with classes at shoreside cooking schools and hands-on experiences in local restaurant kitchens. It all promises to be great fun and a wonderful learning experience. Stay tuned for more information on when these tours will be available on Regatta and Nautica 

Oceania Cruises really is a cruise line for foodies, and we’ve always known that meant we had to do more than serve fantastic cuisine. We had to connect the onboard culinary experience to all the fabulous ports of call, so guests not only learn from chefs during classes and demonstrations, but also understand and appreciate the unique food and wine perspectives of the places we’re visiting. Our new Culinary Discovery Tours ensure that we will continue to achieve that goal, offering both the finest cuisine and the most extensive culinary enrichment programs to be found at sea.

Can you tell I am excited about this new program? I hope all of you have the chance to experience one of our new Culinary Discovery Tours very soon!

Chef Kelly

Executive Chef, Bon Appétit Culinary Center

Culinary Enrichment Director, Oceania Cruises

 

February 20, 2012

TEMPLES AND TRIBUTARIES IN VIETNAM

Mekong River - Saigon (5)A voyage through Southeast Asia with Oceania Cruises offers many opportunities to experience the colorful splendor of magnificent landscapes. Guests onboard Nautica recently explored the rich, conflicted history, diverse cultures and stunning scenery of Vietnam. While the port city of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, is a major draw to travelers, many guests chose to venture beyond Saigon to the grandeur of the Vietnamese countryside. One shore excursion took Nautica guests to the gateway of the Mekong Delta, the harbor town of My Tho. Just on the outskirts of this town stands the Vinh Trang Pagoda, a major center of Buddhist worship.

Mekong River - Saigon (3)
Known as the "Happy Buddha," or "Laughing Buddha," this enormous statue towers over the temple grounds.  
Mekong River - Saigon (2)

In contrast, a smaller interior shrine is embellished with amazingly intricate details. 

Mekong River - Saigon (1)
After experiencing the marvels of the Vinh Trang Pagoda, Oceania Cruises guests explored a portion of the Mekong Delta. This region is an extensive network of rivers and waterways, a result of various headwaters throughout Southeast Asia that ultimately reach the South China Sea. Fishing is a major industry for the region as is rice production. The Mekong Delta is responsible for three different rice harvests in a calendar year and accounts for nearly half of all rice produced in Vietnam. In fact, the delta produces more rice than Japan and Korea combined.

Mekong River - Saigon (14)

Green
Roads in this region are few and far between, so various watercraft are used to navigate the tributaries. Oceania Cruises guests were able to team up with some locals to explore the delta at length. Scientists here are continually discovering new species in the dense tropical setting.

Mekong River - Saigon (9) Mekong River - Saigon (8)

Mekong River - Saigon (11) Mekong River - Saigon (12)Soon it was time to return to Nautica and navigate the more expansive waterways of the South China Sea. But Nautica will call on Saigon again in the very near future, so guests can enjoy further adventures amidst the exotic grandeur of Vietnam. 

February 8, 2012

AN EXCURSION WITH THE ELEPHANTS IN SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka recently welcomed Nautica guests to its wonderful world of elephants. The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage has been serving displaced elephants for over 30 years, providing a sanctuary while trying to maintain a strong semblance of their jungle habitat.

Watering Hole
Twice a day the elephants are led to the Maha Oya River for bathing and frolicking.

Trunk Shake

Butterfly

While this program began with orphaned elephants, the caretakers began a breeding program, and a number of elephants have now been born at Pinnawela. 

Grounds

Although tourism is the top revenue generator for the reserve, many of us were surprised to learn that the sale of elephant dung also provides income. The dung is blended with recycled post consumer paper to create an exceptionally eco-friendly paper product that is used worldwide.
Dung Sign

Whether taking a ride on an elephant or simply posing to capture a photo of an unforgettable moment, everyone took full advantage of the opportunity to interact with these gentle giants. 

Elephant Ride


Dashboard
Say Cheese

Sri Lanka offered Nautica's guests an up close and personal experience with one of nature's most majestic beasts. 

January 19, 2012

SCENIC HIGHLIGHTS OF SOUTH AFRICA


Beach

During Nautica's recent visit to Cape Town, Oceania Cruises guests enjoyed a shore excursion that explored the majestic beauty of the Cape Peninsula. These gorgeous pictures feature Fish Hoek Beach situated on False Bay, where guests soaked in the sun while watching the local people, and their dogs, roam along the beautiful shoreline.

Dogs N Beach

As the excursion continued, Nautica's guests visited Table Mountain National Park and climbed to the top of Cape Point. 

Coast Climbers

Their reward was the magnificent view from this long-retired lighthouse. Built in 1860, the lighthouse was often obscured by sea mist and now serves as a monitoring point for the numerous lighthouses situated on South Africa's coastline. History tells many tales of hardship for sailing vessels traveling around the Cape of Good Hope, and these lighthouses continue to serve a most useful purpose.

Lighthouse

The large rocks on the beach led guests to one of the most anticipated highlights of the excursion — the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. As the African penguins are in the midst of nesting season, Nautica guests were able to witness some of the new arrivals. This sanctuary is home to thousands of these endangered penguins in addition to a variety of birds and other animals that enjoy this protected space. The bay itself offered visitors the opportunity to see whales, sharks and dolphins.

Coast

Penguin

Bird Egg

Nautica has now crossed the Indian Ocean to resume her journeys throughout the Asian continent. But the images of the Cape Peninsula leave little doubt that Cape Town is a must-see port of call for an upcoming Oceania Cruises vacation.

January 5, 2012

MADAGASCAR: A FEAST FOR THE SENSES


Andilana BeachAs we ring in the New Year, it seems only natural to reflect on some of our favorite memories from 2011. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I enjoyed the privilege of visiting many fascinating ports of call onboard Marina and collecting numerous photos from those traveling on the other ships as well. Most of my travels were in Europe, exploring grand cities, historic churches and monumental architecture. Perhaps that is why I so enjoyed these photos of Madagascar, which were shared with me by the Destination Services team onboard Nautica. A vivid contrast to the bustling cities of Europe, Madagascar is a haven for exotic wildlife and exquisite flora.

The island of Nosy Be lies just off the coast of the largest island of Madagascar. Created by an ancient volcano, Nosy Be is a land of beautiful beaches, such as Andilana Beach pictured above, as well as forested mountains and deep crater lakes. The lush environment breeds a variety of unique and colorful wildlife, which made for an amazing and adventurous excursion ashore for Nautica guests. Tree ClimberMadagascar is best known for its rare and endangered lemurs. Destination Services team members Sonja Altmann and Filippo Camerlengo were able to get up close and personal with a few of the famous primates. Sonja Altmann

Filippo Camerlengo

Whitey Ford Sleepy
Celebrity status aside, the lemur shares the Lokobe Nature Reserve on Nosy Be with many other indigenous animal, reptile, plant and tree species, all equally fascinating. 

Turtle

Snake

Gecko
The island is renowned for not only its vibrant hues, but also for the pleasant aromas that complement the vivid colors. Nosy Be is known as the "scented" or "perfumed" island due largely to the aromatic ylang-ylang trees spread across the landscape. The excursion continued with a tour of a distillery where the yellow flowers are steam-processed to extract the oil for perfume production as well as natural health products. Considering the wealth of fragrances that envelop the island, including not only ylang-ylang but also cocoa, vanilla, coffee, coconut, and cinnamon, you can see why Nosy Be is a living potpourri of nature's most pleasing scents.

Ylang-Ylang Distillery 1 Ylang-Ylang Distillery 2Hell-Ville was the final stop on this excursion through Nosy Be. Contrary to its name, Hell-Ville is a charming colonial town featuring a large, open-air marketplace where one can find local produce, trinkets, and smiles that make the visit quite memorable.

Hell-Ville 1

Hell-Ville 2

As you might imagine, Nosy Be also offers great snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving and other water sports. But the guests on this shore excursion were very pleased to have had the opportunity to experience Nosy Be's exotic wildlife, learn about its diverse flora, and even mingle with a few of the locals. 

Pier 2

While a bit reluctant to board the tender and leave this island paradise, guests know that more amazing destinations await them as Nautica sails into 2012 and explores the wonders of Asia.

December 20, 2011

NAUTICA VISITS MANGALORE

Karkala Gomateshwara 4

Nautica recently called on the port city of Mangalore, India, renowned as the junction of the Netravati and Gurupura rivers, which ultimately lead to the Arabian Sea. As a result, Mangalore is the staging point for major Western Indian exports such as cashews and coffee as well as various petroleum products.

Several important historical sites and spiritual centers can be found in and around Mangalore, and many Nautica guests explored the area during an excursion with Oceania Cruises. Their adventure began north of Mangalore in the holy town of Karkala, a center of pilgrimage for followers of Jainism that is nestled amidst a striking landscape dominated by black granite. 

Karkala Gomateshwara 1

The 42-foot-tall monolithic statue of Bahubali is a prominent landmark just beyond the town center. Bahubali is believed to embody the ideal of a man who conquers selfishness, jealousy, pride, and anger. His virtue was a result of 12 years of meditation following a major conflict with his brother Bharata. Karkala has numerous places of worship devoted to a wide variety of faiths and welcomes thousands of visitors each year seeking spiritual guidance as well as a closer look at the magnificent detail of the sculptures and temples.

Karkala Gomateshwara 2

Karkala Gomateshwara 3

Karkala 1

Karkala 2
Just as sculptors created beautiful works out of stone in Karkala, the agriculturists at nearby Soans Farm created equal beauty from the earth. First established prior to World War II, the farm began to flourish after the war and Indian independence. Soans Farm was conceived as a coconut plantation, but because the area has shallow soil and minimal irrigation, Alfred Soans had to seek alternatives to achieve success. Pineapple was introduced along with other crop diversification. Farm machinery was employed, and irrigation improvements were made. These innovations led to year-round usage of the land, sustainable farming methods, and further agricultural developments that attracted researchers from around the world to study and observe the ground-breaking successes.

Soans Farm 1

Soans Farm 2

Nautica guests seeking reflection and inspiration found it at the Thousand Pillars Temple in the town of Moodabidri. The temple literally has 1,000 sculpted stone pillars, and it is believed that none are identical. The temple is also home to the oldest Jain manuscripts charting the religion's beliefs, history and culture. Inside the temple, more ornate carvings adorn the granite pillars, and various panels decorate the interior.

Moodabidri


1,000 Pillar Temple Moodabidri 1

1,000 Pillar Temple Moodabidri 2

Returning to Mangalore, Nautica guests visited the St. Aloysius College Chapel. The church was constructed in the early 20th century and was inspired by the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The church and school are dedicated to Aloysius Gonzaga, a saint who renounced his wealth and power to adopt an ascetic lifestyle and serve others. 

Saint Alysius Campus

The paintings in the center of the ceiling depict the life's work of St. Aloysius and his commitment to those in need. St. Aloysius’ life ended when he contracted the plague while tending to those stricken with the disease. His legacy lives on as thousands of children continue to study at the school each year.

Saint Aloysius College Chapel

With the holiday season in full swing, those considering New Year’s resolutions may well have found inspiration in the spiritual precepts of the religious centers of Mangalore, Karkala and Moodabidri.

 

 

December 8, 2011

THE DESERT OASIS OF FUJAIRAH

Fort Fujairah 2The Arabian Desert offers magnificent vistas of a vast expanse of endless sands. But despite the scenic landscapes, most visitors are always pleased to discover an oasis amidst this dry wilderness. The city of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates is one such oasis. The port is nestled at the base of the Hajar mountain range on the Gulf of Oman. Fujairah receives more rainfall than most of the region as a result of the mountains and the easterly winds bringing warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean. This climate helps create the numerous valleys in Fujairah, known as wadis, which function as dry riverbeds that fill with water during the rains. The climate also impacts the coastline extending north, which features some of the best beaches in the area.

Guests onboard Nautica were able to choose from an array of excursions offered by Oceania Cruises during their recent call at Fujairah. A visit to the refurbished Fort Fujairah and Fujairah Museum highlighted the region's history and culture. These photographs illustrate both the barren feel of the desert and the lush vegetation that can suddenly thrive here. In fact, the fort is surrounded by date gardens. Fort Fujairah 1

The museum features various artifacts from recent history as well as archaeological finds dating back thousands of years.

Fujairah Artifacts 2

To the north of Fujairah is Al Badiyah Mosque, believed to be the oldest mosque in the UAE. It was constructed of mud and stone without the benefit of any wood for support; thus archaeologists are unable to determine its age for certain. A watchtower stands on the hill above the mosque with panoramic views of the wide stretches of surrounding desert. 

Fort Fujairah 4

Fort Fujairah 5
The local souks, or markets, offer another interesting area to explore. Fujairah's climate creates farming opportunities, and one can find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at the souks, in addition to souvenir trinkets, Persian rugs and clay pots. Some souks are seasonal or weekly, and some have swelled to permanent shopping centers that may even feature amusement parks.

Fujairah Fruit Stand 2

Fujairah Fruit Stand 1

Another option for Nautica guests was a photo safari through the Hajar Mountains. Vehicles wound their way through the various scenic passes and even ventured off road, where guests had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the local wildlife. 

Fujairah Mountain Safari 2  Fujairah Mountain Safari 1

Fujairah Mountain Safari 3  Fujairah Goat and Tree

Fujairah Goat 2

Fujairah Goat 1

Fujairah Camel
As with many ports in this region, Fujairah has historically stood at the crossroads of several major trade routes. And even though it is still a very busy commercial port for oil and cargo containers, Fujairah is quickly gaining a reputation as a relaxed oasis away from the hustle and bustle of other ports in the area. Fujairah offers not only the natural and historical sights described here, but also sunny beaches, bountiful fishing and various water sports. This destination was a delightful stop for Nautica's guests before continuing en route to the wonders of India.

December 2, 2011

THE WONDERS OF PETRA

As Nautica recently departed the Mediterranean and sailed for Asia, the ship transited the Suez Canal and paid a visit to Aqaba, Jordan's only seaport. This region north of the Red Sea boasts a rich history and several archaeological digs, as Aqaba's location made it a major junction for historic trade routes between Africa, Asia and Europe.

Oceania Cruises guests enjoyed an excursion from Aqaba to the hidden city of Petra. This trip illuminated Jordan's ancient past as well as some stories from more recent history. The motorcoach route traced the path of the World War I adventures of T.E. Lawrence, a British Army officer instrumental in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. An archaeological researcher prior to the outbreak of war, Lawrence was side-by-side with Arab rebels and helped lead the attack on Aqaba. With the seaport secure, Lawrence and the Arabs conducted various exercises throughout the region that would eventually lead them to Damascus. Lawrence later wrote about the exploits, and his tales ultimately inspired the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

Petra Kînigswand
Photographs of Petra might indeed remind you of a movie set, as you may have seen it in films before. Even though Lawrence of Arabia was not ultimately filmed in Jordan, various movies have used the region as their backdrop. The structure carved into the vibrant red cliff below is known as Al Khazneh, or "The Treasury." Various legends indicate it was a repository for either pirates' loot or the bounty of Egyptian Pharaohs. You might recognize it as the temple featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Petra Schatzhaus

Ad-Deir is known as "The Monastery" and can be seen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Petra Das Felsgrab Ed-Deir

Regardless of whether they've been featured in film, all the sights of Petra are astounding and worthy of a visit if you have the opportunity. The entrance to the Great Temple dates back over 2,000 years and features both Roman and Byzantine enhancements.

Petra_Tempel (Medium)

Archaeological projects have unearthed a Byzantine church with a number of fascinating mosaics.

Petra-Mosaic-2-2 (Medium)
Natural rock formations provided the infrastructure for aqueducts and cisterns that enabled Petra to not only survive, but even prosper through drought. The Nabataean people established Petra as their capital around the sixth century BC, and their control of the water supply here led them to thrive in this desert oasis. 

Petra_aqueduct

Petra's vast stone cliffs not only served as the raw material for the rock-cut architecture, they also provided a means of creating permanent records.

Petra Felsinschrift

The final stop on Oceania Cruises' excursion was the magnificent amphitheater carved into the hillside.  

Petra_Theater

The journey to Petra was certainly a memorable one, and it is easy to understand why many travelers have rated Petra amongst the world's must-see destinations.

October 28, 2011

An Excursion to Ancient Caunos from the Turkish Port of Marmaris

Guests onboard Nautica recently enjoyed a visit to the Turkish port of Marmaris. Once a small fishing village, Marmaris has developed into a bustling resort town that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Its picturesque natural harbor nestled amongst forested hills is a haven for yachters from around the world.

1
Several guests enjoyed an excursion to the ancient city of Caunos. The excursion began with a riverboat journey along the scenic Dalyan River.

2

4Along the way, guests captured photos of the famous Lycian rock-cut tombs carved into the cliffs overlooking the river. Dating back to 400 B.C., these tombs were designed to resemble the entrances of Hellenistic temples. The tombs were most likely reserved for the dignitaries and the wealthy elite of this ancient civilization.

5

6
The excursion continued to the ruins of Caunos. Like the ancient city of Ephesus, Caunos was also once a port, but access to the sea vanished over the years due to the silting of the former bay. However, Caunos' ultimate demise was due to a widespread malaria epidemic and the conquering of the region by Turkish tribes. Archaeologists have unearthed many areas of the city over the years with the amphitheatre taking center stage. 7

8

9

A new friend was one of the stars of the show.

10After a day of exploring so many fascinating sites, guests relaxed by the river and enjoyed a taste of the local cuisine. The rock-cut tombs provided a scenic backdrop.

3Should your travels with Oceania Cruises take you to the port of Marmaris, consider spending the day exploring the historic sites of Caunos and the Dalyan River.

September 30, 2011

A Journey through Provence - Romance and Beauty Abound

Marseille
As Nautica and Insignia continue to cruise the Mediterranean Sea, both Oceania Cruises ships will be visiting the port of Marseille and the neighboring areas of Provence this fall. The skyline of Marseille is dominated by the landmark basilica, Notre Dame de la Garde, which overlooks the Old Port.

Cassis (3)

A mere 12 miles to the east of Marseille is Cassis, a delightful fishing village that unites the sea with the French countryside. A journey through the lovely landscapes of Provence brings you to this vision enhanced by the scent of fresh herbs wafting through the air.

Cassis (6)Exploring the quaint village of Cassis, one finds an array of boutique shops featuring the modern fashions of the French Riviera, while additional stores focus on the regional and cultural charms of Provence.   

  Cassis (2)
  Cassis (4) Some of the most tempting "local charms" are the delicious pastries that beckon you from the windows of the many pâtisseries lining the streets. 

Cassis (5)
Considering the delectable treats, fabulous shopping opportunities and beautiful scenery to be found in Provence, it comes as no surprise that this region has become a favorite destination of Oceania Cruises ships.

September 15, 2011

Nautica Sails to Charming Mykonos

If you have yet to visit the world-famous island of Mykonos, you might consider a voyage with Oceania Cruises through the Greek Islands. A favorite playground of the international jet-set, Mykonos will serve as host to Nautica once again next week (for a return engagement) and to Marina and Insignia this fall. Last week Nautica played peekaboo with our photographer as the ship's guests were able to explore this 33-square-mile island on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Nautica Peekaboo
Mere moments from the ship, sunseekers chose to enjoy one of the white sandy beaches of Mykonos as Nautica watched from the dock near Mykonos Town, also known as Chora in Greek.

Beach Nautica

Beach

The design of a water source in town is as enchanting as the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea, and the island's architecture boldly stands out against the vivid blue of the soaring skies.

Spigot

  White Church

White Walls

Add some color to the whitewashed architecture equation, and Mykonos delivers memorable postcard-perfect pictures.

Red Door & Dome

Maroon Door

Alley
The town's pathways twist about and create a pleasurable maze for any explorer seeking Mykonos' charm. The island is an Oceania Cruises favorite with its historic windmills, affection for its pelican friends, and club atmosphere that draws thousands who want to dance the day and night away. If your ship has a late departure, be sure to watch the sunset from a local pub...it's magical.

August 8, 2011

Nautica's travels inspire memories of Sorrento

Sorrento cliffs
While I am Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I do not have the privilege of traveling onboard year-round. As the calendar has turned to August and summer enters the home stretch, I find myself at home in the States, where an exceptionally warm summer season has forced me indoors and revealed a guilty pleasure of mine. When I need to "get away," I pull up Facebook and search my newsfeed for the Oceania Cruises headline, Where in the world are our ships today?, which is my personal favorite.  I have found this simple therapy lets me escape for a moment to milder climates with memories of my previous journeys with Oceania Cruises and daydreams about my adventures still to come.

Today has been no different as the newsfeed revealed that Regatta is cruising the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska; Insignia is in London preparing to explore Scandinavia; Marina is visiting Santander, Spain; and Nautica is anchored along the Amalfi Coast. Each destination is wonderful, but Amalfi in particular calls up an Oceania Cruises memory of mine and whisks my mind away to the Mediterranean. 

It was November 2008, and Amalfi was on our itinerary, but a storm would not allow us to anchor there. We stopped at Sorrento instead, an equally charming port that Nautica also visited just yesterday on her current itinerary. Sorrento overlooks the Gulf of Naples, just around the corner from Amalfi. The day was overcast for our trip in 2008, which may not seem ideal, but it turned out to be the perfect day for exploring this quaint little town with its famous cliff-top hotels.

Sorrento cliff hotels
The cliffs rising out of the sea offer extraordinary views during a pleasant climb from the tender's dock to the historic, central portion of the community along Via San Cesareo. Walking through the narrow streets revealed tall buildings with craft shops on the lowest level and various townspeople's homes on the floors above. The sights and smells were intoxicating. There were a number of woodworkers and ceramic artisans crafting their wares in their studios, shopkeepers replenishing their displays in their storefronts, and the warm buzz of all the town's visitors investigating the local treasures.

Sorrento street
It is here I found a new appreciation for Limoncello. Each shop and restaurant proudly boasts the origins of Limoncello and is all too eager to serve you a sample of the world's finest. The walls of the shops are adorned with paintings and photos of the lemon groves of the region that produce this tasty aperitif and digestif. Of course, you are invited to taste and purchase as much as you like to fully stock your home once your travels have come to an end.

This hot summer day of August will soon turn into a hot summer night. I believe I'll enjoy a lovely Limoncello after dinner and forget about the heat wave, as my mind will have me walking the streets of Sorrento. And thank you, Nautica, for making all of this possible.

The next time you are on Facebook and see where the ships are located, hit the like button if you have been to one of the ports and post a comment about your experience. It will help get all of us through these dog days of summer and inspire us to look forward to our next voyage with Oceania Cruises.

 

 

June 27, 2011

Of Alaska and Alanya


       

Alanya, Turkey with its fortifications (1)There's nothing better than receiving emails from the ships on a Monday, especially ones containing stunning photos. The intrepid explorers onboard Regatta and Nautica did a wonderful job of showcasing exactly how diverse the destinations we sail to are. Nautica sojourned in Alanya, Turkey.

Alanya, Turkey with its fortifications (2)

Alanya, Turkey with its fortifications
The fortifications surrounding Alanya are astounding and date back to the Middle Ages.  If you are not familiar with this spectacular city, it is on the "Turkish Riviera," about 50 miles east of Antalya. Beautiful beches rim the gulf, and it's where ancient history meets today's "jet set."

Boarding (Small)

Helicopter (Small)

A wonderful juxtaposition to the hot and sunny clime of Alanya, these photos come to us fresh from Regatta in Alaska. Everyone knows that one of the highlights of this great land is the wildlife, but we can't forget the memorable experiences our domesticated friends can provide!

 
Running (Small)
 
Dogs 1 (Small)
 
Dogs (Small)
 
Resting (Small)

Guest (Small)
These snapshots are from a recent Glacier and Dog-Sledding excursion. I'm not sure who has more fun, the guests or the dogs!

June 2, 2011

News from Nautica: JEWELS OF THE AEGEAN

    

Pirgy - chios (3)

Tomorrow Nautica concludes her adventures exploring the Jewels of the Aegean. This popular itinerary took Nautica to several of the charming Greek islands that grace the Aegean Sea. On the island of Chios, several guests joined an excursion to explore the medieval town of Pyrgi, where the streets are so narrow and the houses so tightly packed that the village resembles a fortress. Indeed, many of the villages in southern Chios were settled during the time of Genoese occupation and were built to withstand pirate invasions.

Today the economies of these villages are built around the indigenous mastic trees, which produce a valuable resin used in liquor, chewing gum, ice cream, pastries, cosmetics and other products. 

Pirgy - chios (2)

One of the most unusual characteristics of the town is the geometric graffiti adorning many of the buildings, including the main church. The designs, called xysta, are typically black and white, often complemented by splashes of brilliant red from strings of tomatoes drying in the sun.

Pirgy - chios (4)


On this journey Nautica also visited the lovely Greek island of Zakynthos. 

Zakynthos01

While tourism is a major industry here, there are many beautiful unspoiled areas on this island due to the protections afforded its famous loggerhead turtles. These endangered turtles hatch on the local beaches and then make their way out to sea where, if they survive, they may reside for twenty-five years or longer before the females will return to the place where they hatched in order to lay their own eggs.

Zakynthos02

As Blogger-at-Large, I was privileged to visit Zakynthos myself on a recent cruise. I joined one of Oceania Cruises' excursions in which we took a boat ride around the bay in hopes of catching a glimpse of one the enormous loggerhead turtles. Unfortunately it was a bit early in the season, and we did not have a sighting, but we did learn many interesting facts from our guide. For instance, bars and nightclubs are prohibited on parts of the island, as are nighttime flights, because the hatchling turtles generally make their way out to sea at night, guided by the light of the moon. Artificial light can cause the turtles to navigate inland and be exposed to threats such as dehydration and predators. 

Zakynthos03

While we were unable to spot a turtle, we did see many beautiful views of Zakynthos and the small islands that surround the main island. Hidden caves and white pebble beaches are tucked away in tiny coves amidst brilliant turquoise waters. On hot summer days guests onboard these boating excursions would relish the opportunity to go for a swim, but it was barely over 70 degrees Fahrenheit the day we were there, and our guide told us the water would be exceptionally cold.

Little did I know, the adventurous among us were not going to let a little chill keep them from the opportunity to swim in the crystal blue Zakynthos waters. 

Zakynthos04

Mr. Robert Cordo leapt into the chilly waters without even hesitating, and I have to say as Blogger-at-Large, I took that as a challenge. I could not sit by and miss this chance to share a wonderful experience with the readers of the Oceania Cruises blog.
Zakynthos05

I summoned my courage and dove right in. I confess it was a bit of a shock at first!

Zakynthos07

The water was certainly brisk, but once I had joined my fellow swimmers, it was quite invigorating. And the view was astounding!

Zakynthos08

It was at this point that I spotted the tiny white sand beach at the foot of the majestic rocks rising from this little island. Since I'd already done the hard part of diving into frigid sea water, and I didn't know when, if ever, I would have the privilege of returning to Zakynthos, I decided I should swim to this beach and wriggle my toes in the sand.

Zakynthos09

Almost there...

Zakynthos10

Mission accomplished!

I stood there a few moments taking it all in (and catching my breath after the rigorous swim). It's not every day that one gets to have an experience like this. The seascapes were awe-inspiring, the swim was rejuvenating, and my memories of this charming Greek island will last a lifetime.

Zakynthos11

I found myself unable to stop laughing during the swim back to the boat. This led to a few mouthfuls of salty seawater being swallowed, but that did not dampen the joy of the day. Thank you to Mr. Cordo for inspiring me to dive right in!
Zakynthos12

Should you have the chance to sail to any of the lovely Greek islands onboard an Oceania Cruise, I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps you too will find yourself inspired to dive into the coastal waters and explore a hidden cove. Or you may simply choose to relax on the beach and savor the views, or to meander the cobbled streets and enjoy the charming architecture. Whatever your inclinations, exploring the Greek islands with Oceania Cruises is an experience not to be missed.

April 18, 2011

NAUTICA'S ADVENTURES IN ASIA

 

Vietnam landscape
Nautica has spent these first months of 2011 exploring the colorful coasts of Asia. From China to Vietnam to Thailand to Myanmar, guests onboard Nautica have experienced diverse cultures, vibrant metropolises, fascinating histories, and magnificent religious shrines.

 

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Hoi Han , Vietnam A guest onboard was kind enough to share photos of some recent excursions taken during travels with Nautica. Above you see a shot of the lovely landscape of Vietnam, and here are also some interesting and beautiful portraits of local Vietnamese people.

 

 

 

 

 

In nearby Cambodia, Oceania Cruises offered an excursion in which guests could see an Apsara Dance, a Khmer Classical Dance that forms an integral part of the culture of Cambodia. The apsara, a woodland spirit, is played by a woman, whose graceful, sinuous gestures are codified to narrate classical myths or religious stories. This tradition of dance has been honed for over a millennium and is depicted in works of art throughout Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat.

Apsara Dance , Cambodia

Nautica then sailed on to vibrant Myanmar, where the ship lingered for two overnight stays in Yangon so that guests could delve deep into this fascinating culture. 

Yangon, Myanmar Noviciation ceremony
As the majority of Myanmar's people are Buddhist, the Novitiation Ceremony, or Shinbyu, is one of the most important events in the life of a Burmese boy. Parents deem it their duty to send forth their sons to embrace the legacy of the Buddha, enter the order of monks, and become immersed in Buddha’s teachings. This rite of passage, however long or short it may be, is of utmost spiritual importance and is expected to have a profound and lasting effect on the boy’s life.

The ceremony begins with a grand procession in which the young boys are dressed as princes in glittering robes, makeup, and ornate headpieces. They are accompanied by an orchestra and dancers in a gala affair. 

Yangon, Myanmar novice
Later they will have their heads shaven and don the robes of a novice, a symbol of how Buddha’s son swore off the luxuries of princely life for the life of an ascetic.

In Yangon, the procession of the novices visits the Schwedagon Pagoda to pay homage to the Buddha and do meritorious deeds. This glorious shrine is covered in gold leaf, adorned with over 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies, and topped with a 76-carat diamond at its crown. Dominating the Yangon skyline, the Schwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred shrine of the Burmese, housing innumerable relics including hairs of Gautama Buddha.

Yangon, Myanmar Shwedagon pagoda
Nautica will soon bid Asia adieu to sail for European shores where she will spend her summer. But Nautica's adventures in Asia will not soon be forgotten by any guests fortunate enough to have traveled on these remarkable journeys.