34 posts categorized " Oceania Club "

May 5, 2014

SIGNATURE SAILINGS: YOUR WORLD AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

July 13, 2013

A GRAND CELEBRATION AT SEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2013

A MEMORABLE 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN TOSCANA

Toscana PhotoOn a sailing that has already created so many fond memories for me, last night was the most memorable yet. As Riviera set sail from Taormina, Sicily, I headed to Toscana with my wife, Daniela, to host some of our most loyal guests for a dinner in celebration of Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary. Through the windows of Toscana, we could see the beautiful sunset behind Mount Etna, a perfect backdrop for a very special evening.

Riviera’s string quartet played as our guests arrived. Daniela and I welcomed each guest, as did Captain Gunnar Romtveit and General Manager Thierry Tholon. We were also joined by several of the senior officers, each of whom hosted a table for the evening. Our guests were more than 50 of our most loyal Oceania Club members, from Bronze level through Platinum, and we were honored to be celebrating 10 years at sea with some of the guests who had made it all possible.

Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti prepared a six-course dinner befitting the exclusive event. The menu was printed for each guest as a keepsake to remember not only the exquisite meal but also the wonderful company we all enjoyed as we celebrated this special occasion together. It was such a pleasure to be able to talk with our guests in this intimate setting and to hear their delightful stories and fond memories of their voyages with Oceania Cruises. I was pleased to hear that, while the ships are beautiful and the cuisine exceeds their highest expectations, it is our officers, staff and crew Toscana Photo-2that truly differentiate the Oceania Cruises experience from any other. As one guest put it, “It’s like coming back to see family every time.”

We are so grateful to have these cherished guests as part of our Oceania Cruises family, and I offered a toast to their health and happiness. I was glad to have the opportunity to personally thank them for choosing to explore the world with us and for making it possible for us to expand our fleet and deliver even more dream vacation experiences. We raised our glasses to the wonderful journeys we’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years and to creating more treasured memories onboard Oceania Cruises in the years to come.

Everyone in Toscana last night said they are looking forward to the next decade with great excitement, and in fact, we made a commitment to each other that we would reunite the group and celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 20th anniversary together as well. In the meantime, we will always cherish our memories of this special evening, and I hope our paths cross again many times.

June 18, 2013

10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY RECEPTION HONORS LOYAL GUESTS, OFFICERS AND CREW

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Last night was a truly special evening on the 10th Anniversary Sailing onboard Marina, as we hosted a cocktail reception in honor of our Oceania Club members. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to greet many of our loyal guests, including Mr. Ken Reycraft and Ms. Sheila Brohman (above), who are on their 27th cruise with us.

I always enjoy attending these receptions when I am onboard, but last night’s event was especially memorable for me because we also recognized the onboard team members who have been with us for the company’s entire 10 years. 

 

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GM Dominique Nicolle introduces team
 
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10-year team members


We opened the Miami office on January 5th, 2003, with less than 20 employees. Our telephones weren’t working yet, and we did not have any computers. Our first ship, Regatta, was due to arrive in only six months and we were still planning her itineraries. 

Most importantly, only six months before delivery of the ship, we were in the process of building a team to operate the vessel. For a cruise line, the most important asset we have is our onboard team, and we needed to quickly recruit 400 officers and crew members. 

The cruise industry is dominated by a few very large players, and we had to convince 400 team members to take a chance on a startup company run by a small group of investors with big dreams. Those initial crew members that we were able to recruit were so much more than a crew of 400. They quickly became a strong team that would shape the future success of our company.

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Cabin Stewardess Mayra Lisseth Valle
 
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Asst. Chef de Partie Rojello Ozoria Rincon


10-year employee 3
Asst. Electro Technical Milen Dimitrov Dimitrov
 
10-year employee 4
Head Baker Valmarino Abad Alberto


Captain FlokosI am so pleased that many of those inaugural team members are still with Oceania Cruises. Fifteen of them are here with us on this anniversary sailing, including Captain Dimitrios Flokos (left). It was my honor and privilege to recognize each of them at the reception last night and to have the chance to shake their hands and thank them for being a cherished part of our Oceania Cruises family. I wanted to share their names here and to offer my congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all of the officers and crew across our fleet who have provided a decade of dedicated service. You are the reason that we welcome so many loyal past guests onboard our ships with every sailing.

10-Year Team Members onboard Marina's 10-Year Anniversay Sailing:

Head Baker Valmarino Abad Alberto

Cellar Master Ramona Caracas

Asst. Cabin Stewardess Ancizar Franco Chamorro Guacales

Maitre D' Toscana Paul Mihai Climescu

Asst. Electro Technical Milen Dimitrov Dimitrov

Butler Fabian Mascarenhas

Asst. Chef de Partie Rojello Ozoria Rincon

Provision Master Diosdado Jr Pilongo Pacot

Chef de Partie Esteban Racadio

AB Fireman Sammuel Capati Rugayan

Deputy Head Waiter Vedran Stanojevic

Cabin Stewardess Mayra Lisseth Valle

Chef de Partie-Pastry Jhon Jairo Romero Vaca

Restaurant Manager Borislav Sijan

Master Dimitrios Flokos

March 14, 2013

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

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

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

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Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis at Mano de Desierto

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

Ralli Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 10, 2013

NICK DESANTIS SHARES STORIES FROM THE OCEANIA CLUB REUNION CRUISE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Greetings from the 9th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise, sailing from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro on the lovely Regatta! As manager of the Oceania Club, I am always so pleased to see past guests onboard with whom I have sailed before, and many have become dear friends. I also love meeting other Oceania Club members for the first time and having the opportunity to thank them for their loyalty.

In short, everyone is having a wonderful time and it has only just begun! Though a lot of work went into the planning of the cruise, one thing my team cannot control is the weather, but this has not been a problem because the weather in Buenos Aires was better than we ever could have planned. Of course, there are a lot of things we can control, so the day I arrived, Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President of Sales Michael Hirsch and I met with the senior staff to go over the itinerary, make sure we were all on the same page and see if there were any final details that needed to be ironed out. We all want this voyage to be unforgettable!

I was happy to find that there are a few members of the Regatta team with whom I've had the pleasure of sailing on previous Reunion Cruises: Captain Jurica Brajcic, Oceania Club Ambassador Cary Arias, Cruise Director Leslie Jon and Restaurant Manager Vladimir Cavic. Everyone understands what an important and fantastic event this Reunion Cruise is, especially in the year of our 10th anniversary, a milestone we attribute to the unprecedented loyalty of Oceania Cruises’ guests.

On our second day in Buenos Aires, we hosted one of the first Reunion Cruise tours, Discover Historic Buenos Aries. It was a half-day tour and included a stop at the Plaza de Mayo, the site of the salmon-colored presidential palace known as Casa Rosada with its famed balcony where Eva Peron once addressed adoring crowds.

Across from Eva buliding Eva Peron-Presidental buliding

We had the chance to sip coffee at the oldest café in Argentina where notables from Jorge Luis Borges to Albert Einstein once gathered. Before heading back to the pier, we explored El Zanjón de Granados, believed to be the site of Buenos Aires’ first settlement.

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To kick off our first night at sea, we gathered for an exclusive dinner at Toscana with most of our 70 Oceania Club guests who have reached the Bronze level or above. I had the pleasure of hosting three couples, all of whom have traveled extensively throughout the world (even beyond the 30-plus countries I’ve visited, which I once thought was an impressive total!). These three couples will be staying onboard for several subsequent cruises. In fact, there are about 95 guests staying onboard Regatta until the ship arrives in Miami in April.

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Starting from the left: Mrs. Dunn (Bronze), Mr and Mrs. Hopkins (Silver), Nick DeSantis, Mr. and Mrs. Lindley (Bronze) and Mr. Dunn (Bronze)


It was a truly wonderful evening, followed by a beautiful sunrise that greeted us in Montevideo the next day. I can’t wait to share more of our exciting exploration of the east coast of South America.

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November 5, 2012

THE SOUTH PACIFIC: A PRETTY PICTURE

As your Blogger-at-Large, there is only one thing I enjoy more than traveling the world with Oceania Cruises, and that’s sitting down and getting to know fellow guests. Everyone has their own unique perspective on what makes a voyage with Oceania Cruises so appealing and also what makes each destination so unique. I recently had the privilege of spending some time chatting with Peter and Pauline Pretty, Bronze Oceania Club members who have found their home away from home aboard the ships of Oceania Cruises.

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There are two kinds of travelers I come across on our cruises: “sightseers” and “doers.” Make no mistake that the Prettys are “doers.” They told me the best way to get to know the regions of the world is to step ashore with abandon – talk to the natives, sample the cuisine and embrace the customs. Recently, the Prettys were able to do just that on a South Pacific cruise, and Peter and Pauline were kind enough to share some of their photos.

In American Samoa, they traveled out into the landscape to experience the culture and witness one of the most esteemed ceremonies in Samoan culture, performed by an illustrious High Talking Chief at a traditional village. The journey involves a breathtaking drive west, during which guests delight in the island's natural beauty and historic landmarks. Highlights include the monolithic Fatu-ma-Futi, or Flowerpot Rock, that rises straight out of the ocean as if standing sentinel at the entrance to Pago Pago Bay. Farther west, the Leone Mission Monument and several churches mark the contribution of Reverend John Williams, who landed in the area in 1832 and began spreading Christianity.

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Despite readily embracing such non-native doctrines, Samoans still cherish traditional ways, especially with regard to ceremonies and social occasions. The High Talking Chief, or "tulafale," is the village spokesman, a grand orator highly skilled at holding the audience's attention through his extraordinary use of language and ancient proverbs. Dressed in traditional garb, the High Talking Chief launches into an animated and authentic performance of an ancient Samoan ceremony used to welcome visiting VIPs. After the ceremony, which takes place in an open-sided thatched "fale" building, guests are treated to a traditional dance performance.

DSC07207In Suva, Fiji, the Prettys explored the evolution of Fiji's fascinating cultural history and art during a half-day tour that included a spectacular performance by the Fijian Firewalkers. Greeted by the reverberating sound of a hollow drum beaten by a Fijian warrior, the blowing of a conch shell and the welcoming song of the villagers, guests were escorted to the DSC07190 amphitheater to witness a performance by Fijian Firewalkers and the enthralling group from the Arts Village of Fiji. As elders chant, young men remove the burning logs from a smoking pit to reveal the white-hot stones signaling the beginning of this ancient ceremony. The group from the Arts Village of Fiji entertains with traditional dancing and by re-enacting their legends and history amidst this idyllic setting.

Cultural immersion isn’t the only way to feel a connection the South Pacific. Sometimes the flora and fauna speak just as loudly. In Lautoka, Fiji, the Prettys discovered the beautiful gardens and historic artifacts of the South Seas during a delightful tour. At picturesque Burness House, hosts Don and Aileen Burness greet guests and provide an escorted walking tour through their landscaped gardens filled with fruit and flowering trees, arthurium lilies and lovely orchids. An extraordinary collection of Fijian artifacts is also on display.

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Moorea is always a guest favorite thanks to its tranquil turquoise lagoon and jagged emerald-colored volcanic peaks that rise up into the bright South Pacific skies. Moorea exemplifies the image that most people have of the South Pacific. Remarkably, a trip to the island doesn’t disappoint as it is every bit as dramatic and captivating as it appears in photographs.

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While the South Pacific is spectacular, it was always comforting to return to their floating home courtesy of Oceania Cruises. The cuisine is always a big hit and this cruise was no exception. Pauline spent some time with Executive Chef Renald Macouin, who shared a few secrets on how to prepare meals à la minute for a ship full of guests.

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While meals are a cherished event each day, the classic afternoon tea was one of Pauline’s favorite indulgences. The assortment of finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and, of course, aromatic and exotic tea selections, were something to look forward to each afternoon upon returning from a day ashore.

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The specialty restaurants, none of which carry an additional surcharge, were something the Prettys looked forward to each time they held a reservation. Dinner with Regatta’s General Manager Raffaele Cinque was a treat, as was the cart of flavored olive oils brought tableside from which guests could choose their favorite.

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While many guests choose to cruise and then return home, the Prettys are big believers in extending their vacation with a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay. Papeete, Tahiti is the hub of the South Pacific but easily retains its reputation as a paradise. There are few hotel experiences that compare to staying in a bungalow suspended over the waters of the lagoon, the moon shimmering over the silver ripples, the stars competing for attention overhead and the tall peaks towering above. Imagine waking in the morning and stepping down to dangle your feet in the waters of a crystal clear lagoon, brightly colored tropical fish darting beneath the pilings as palms rustle just behind you. The Prettys know that feeling well and are convinced that the hotel stay in Papeete was time well spent. It was more than just a chance to recharge their batteries; it was invigorating as well.

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Remember, the South Pacific is only offered a few times a year by Oceania Cruises. A remarkable voyage from Valparaiso to Papeete is still available on December 27, 2012, as are two roundtrip cruises from Papeete on January 16 and January 27, 2013. Those who wish to wander farther afield, as the Prettys did, will be drawn to the February 7, 2013, cruise from Papeete to Auckland, especially considering this sailing offers two new Culinary Discovery Tours. Accompany chefs from the Bon Appétit Culinary Center to experience traditional Maori cuisine in Rotorua or regional dishes and wines in Kerikeri, just inland from the Bay of Islands.

Our thanks to the Prettys for sharing their remarkable South Pacific adventure with us. If you have stories of your South Pacific voyage with Oceania Cruises, feel free to share them here in the comments section of the blog.

October 1, 2012

PRESIDENT KUNAL S. KAMLANI ANNOUNCES ENHANCEMENTS TO OCEANIA CLUB LOYALTY PROGRAM

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Kunal S. Kamlani with guests

Loyalty. It’s a word that seems to have lost its importance to some in today’s modern world. Consumers are increasingly switching brands they once trusted for years. Companies have introduced "Loyalty" benefits that expire annually unless you achieve certain milestones every year. These companies argue that expiration dates should apply if there is no annual commitment. Perhaps that’s true elsewhere, but certainly not at Oceania Cruises. Our past guests continually show their loyalty by returning to us again and again. That dedication has built Oceania Cruises into what we are today and allows us to deliver the most value-packed cruise vacation in the industry. That is also why we’ve always sought to recognize such commitment by offering the best loyalty program in travel, the Oceania Club. 

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Town Hall

I’ve spent the past few months talking with our guests about our loyalty program. In fact, on the most recent Reunion Cruise aboard Riviera from Lisbon to Rome, we spoke at length on the subject in our Town Hall, and I was greatly inspired by your insight and suggestions.

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Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis with guests

That’s why I’m excited to announce today that we are expanding the Oceania Club program to deliver even more value to you every time you sail with us. We are adding a new entry membership level called "Blue" for guests to start earning rewards as quickly as their first cruise. And we are significantly enhancing every milestone level with added benefits such as FREE Air Deviation Fee Waivers and substantial savings on onboard activities, including Internet access. Many of these changes are a direct result of your feedback.

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Introducing the NEW Oceania Club Blue Pin

From the very first time you sail with us, we want you to know how much you are appreciated and that we hope to welcome you back time and again. If you don't sail every year, don't worry; our Loyalty doesn't expire.

The new Blue Level membership allows you to earn benefits faster than ever before. With just two cruise credits earned, you will receive benefits such as savings on Oceania Cruises logo merchandise and a complimentary cocktail reception with the Captain and Senior Officers. We’ll also ensure you are always “in-the-know” with advance notice of new itineraries and exclusive members-only offers.

For our Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond members, we are offering more benefits and greater savings on those aspects of your cruise that you have told us you enjoy the most. Whether you like to sip a fine wine, surf the Internet, relax in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® or venture out on a shore excursion, the more you return to enjoy the Oceania Cruises lifestyle, the more savings we offer on all of the above. 

Oceania Club Bronze Pin
Oceania Club Bronze Pin
Oceania Club Silver Pin
Oceania Club Silver Pin
Oceania Club Gold Pin
Oceania Club Gold Pin


Oceania Club Platinum Pin
Oceania Club Platinum Pin
Oceania Club Diamond Pin
Oceania Club Diamond Pin

We also offer a combination of loyalty benefits that no other cruise line provides, BOTH shipboard credits and prepaid gratuities. And while other cruise lines might offer reduced specialty dining surcharges as part of their loyalty programs, we simply cannot as we NEVER charge a dining supplement to begin with. So we start by offering an incredible value upfront, and then we add to that value the more you sail with us.

The new program is effective with the first 2013 sailings, and you can click here to learn more about the new benefits.

Simply put, we’d like to say “Thank You.” We are so grateful for all of our loyal guests, and we want to ensure you know how deeply you are appreciated. Whether you’ve sailed with us one time or 50 times, you are a treasured part of the Oceania Cruises family.

On the eve of our 10th Anniversary, we made these enhancements to the Oceania Club because we believe our guests’ ongoing commitment should be mirrored by the same passion and appreciation in return. Our guests deserve nothing less than the best, so we will continue to ensure that is always what we deliver. 

On behalf of all of us at Oceania Cruises, Thank You.

Kunal S. Kamlani

President

June 26, 2012

TOWN HALLS AND TOASTS ON THE OCEANIA CLUB REUNION CRUISE

Posted by Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis

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The fun continues onboard the 8th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise. Riviera spent the past two days in Monte Carlo, so guests had plenty of time to explore the city at length. However, in my case, I was hosting so many events and parties that I hardly had time to get off the ship! Of course, this was perfectly fine with me because Riviera is an absolute beauty, and I’m having such a wonderful time with all of our guests onboard.

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Our guests especially enjoyed the town hall with Oceania Cruises President Kunal S. Kamlani yesterday afternoon. We all gathered in Horizons, and Kunal answered questions and listened to ideas that guests had to share. We got some great insight from our most loyal guests on how to continue enhancing the Oceania Cruises experience. As Kunal said, “There is no substitute for direct and in-person dialogue where we can exchange ideas.”

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Kunal S. Kamlani & Mr. and Mrs. Henry Doble

Last night we took advantage of the beautiful views of Monte Carlo from the ship and hosted a cocktail party on the Spa Terrace behind Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Glasses were raised several times because we have so many things to toast – our loyal guests, the new Riviera, and all the great friends we’ve made on the Reunion Cruise. A wonderful time was had by all.

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Oceania Club Ambassador Cary Arias & Mrs. Youkers
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Mr. and Mrs. Maleche & Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis
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Mrs. Moseley & Executive Concierge Randall Abrahams

Afterward we enjoyed a five-course tasting menu created by Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger. While it’s difficult to choose a favorite dish, the Kobe beef in a Valrhona chocolate glaze was outstanding!

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Tomorrow is the last day of the cruise, and it will be difficult to say goodbye to all of the lovely people with whom I’ve spent the last ten days – guests and staff alike. But I don’t have to think about that quite yet. Italy awaits!

June 24, 2012

CHEF DAVID SHALLECK AND KUNAL KAMLANI ENJOY A CULINARY DISCOVERY TOUR

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Chef David Shalleck has just joined the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Riviera. He is the author of Mediterranean Summer, has produced television shows for Jacques Pépin and has appeared on Iron Chef with Riviera’s godmother, Cat Cora.

Today was truly something special for both David and myself. It was our first Culinary Discovery Tour: The Flavors of Provence. Chef David navigated the culinary delights of Provence while I had the chance to observe how much our guests enjoyed this epicurean adventure.

 

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Mrs. Deborah Murphy, Chef David Shallack, Kunal S. Kamlani, Mrs. Debra Clay, Mr. Paul Murphy


IMG-20120623-00375We started at the fish market in the old port of Marseille where the fishmongers were displaying their catch. There was everything from swordfish to shark to moray eels and, of course, the all important rascasse, or scorpion fish, which must always be considered when even thinking about making bouillabaisse!

Afterwards we headed to Chateau de Fontblanche in Cassis about fifteen miles from Marseille, where we were treated to a five-course tasting and wine pairing menu prepared by Provençal Chef Gui Gedda. We enjoyed this casual and delicious meal in the shade of a giant oak tree on the edge of the vineyard with a glorious panorama of the foothills behind us.

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We started with a classic barbajuan paired with a light, dry, crisp rosé wine. The barbajuan was a delightful vegetable beignet filled with roasted and chopped zucchini, onion, tomato and a hint of herbes de Provence.

IMG-20120623-00395Next we enjoyed a purée of eggplant and garlic (lots of garlic!) with a touch of anchovy, scooped out of interesting little ceramic bowls using garden vegetable crudités. This dish was matched with a delightful white wine made from Marsanne grapes.

Then came a version of pissaladière, the pizza-like snack from Southern France made with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives. It was spectacular. Instead of anchovies, Chef Gui's version was topped with a bite-size mignon of red mullet. The tart was paired with a Cassis white wine, unique in that the grapes had not been pressed as they would be in the traditional winemaking process. The natural weight of the grapes extracts the juices.

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Chef David, Chef Gui and Kunal Kamlani

Before desert we dined on incredibly tender beef daube – braised beef – accompanied by noodles generously topped with grated Gruyère cheese. Chef Gui's secret for his daube is that it is made with beef cheeks marinated in red wine and bay leaves for 24 hours. It is then seared and cooked at a very low simmer in wine, thyme, rosemary and other herbs for four hours. This was paired with a very well-balanced red wine that was 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent Mourvèdre.

 

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We finished with an apricot tarte tatin served with fresh cream and lavender honey. This was paired with a cuvée made from Ugni Blanc, Marsanne, Sauvignon and Clairette grapes.

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Paul and Deborah Murphy

While Chef David and I will always remember this Culinary Discovery Tour, it was the people we were with that truly made it special. Paul and Deborah Murphy are on their second Oceania Cruise, joining us from Wichita, Kansas. The Murphys shared with us that they are very excited about their Baltic sailing onboard Marina next year. Louis and Christine Lizzadro from Houston are sailing with us for the first time. For a grand finale shared by all, we finished the meal by toasting our good friends Craig and Joanne Houliston, who have sailed with us 18 times. Today was their 30th anniversary, and we were honored that they were celebrating it with their Oceania Cruises family, dining in a vineyard in Provence.

After a very comfortable ride back to the ship, there was a nice break before the introduction to Provençal cooking later that afternoon at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. With big smiles on their faces upon entering the kitchen, everyone participated in demonstrations and hands-on cooking to put together a simple and very approachable meal of the region: garden vegetables and mesclun salad greens with a Dijon vinaigrette, shrimp Provençal with chickpea-flour-based panisse – very typical of the region – and a classic cherry and plum clafoutis, a popular and easy dessert to make when stone fruit are in season. As an extra treat, Chef David purchased some glistening fresh shark steaks at the market and prepared them in the classic bouillabaisse method for everyone to taste. 

We certainly will cherish these memories forever.

June 22, 2012

POST FROM THE PRESIDENT: Riviera Returns to Barcelona

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This morning Riviera arrived in Barcelona. It was a nostalgic moment for many of us as it was just over a month ago that we christened Riviera in this beautiful city. As we sailed into the port, I confess I got a bit emotional thinking back on all the memories from the christening ceremony.

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While we didn’t have much time to explore on our last visit to Barcelona, this time Daniela and I joined a Reunion Cruise shore excursion to visit some of the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí. First we visited Park Güell, a garden complex filled with Gaudí’s striking designs. Then we saw Gaudí’s most famous creation, the Sagrada Familia. Gaudí died in 1926 before it could be completed, and work continues on the church to this day.

Besides learning about the history of Catalonia, we also made some new friends. Peter and Elle Hecht from New Jersey are on their second Oceania Cruises sailing. They are having a great time and have already booked their third sailing, a Baltic cruise onboard Marina.

After the excursion we stopped for lunch at Marina Moncho’s, which sits right along the sea. The food was spectacular.

 

The pictures say it all. We had gazpacho, baby octopus and paella de mariscos.

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Tomorrow we call on Marseille, and Daniela and I are looking forward to experiencing our first Culinary Discovery Tour: The Exquisite Flavors of Provence. There will be more stories from the Reunion Cruise coming soon.

June 21, 2012

OCEANIA CLUB MANAGER NICK DESANTIS SHARES STORIES OF THE REUNION CRUISE

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Captain Luca Manzi and Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis

Greetings from the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise!

My team has spent the last several months planning special events for this cruise to show our appreciation for our loyal past guests. Over the past few days we have hosted dinners, sail-away parties, a Captain’s reception, shore excursions, cocktail parties – and this is just day five of the cruise! It has been such a pleasure to see past guests with whom I’ve sailed before. So many of them have become dear friends. It’s been equally nice to meet some of our Oceania Club members for the first time and to have the opportunity to thank them for their loyalty.

In short, everyone is having a wonderful time!

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From left: Mr. and Mrs. Doble, Kunal Kamlani, Sheila Brohman, Ken Reycraft, Mr. and Mrs. Grimwood, Daniela Kamlani, Mr. and Mrs. Addleson

On Monday evening, Oceania Cruises President Kunal S. Kamlani and his wife, Daniela, hosted a dinner in Privée for our most loyal Oceania Club members on this sailing. This elegant and intimate setting accommodates just ten guests for private dinners, so Kunal and Daniela invited some of our most frequent guests to join them for a truly memorable evening. These guests have sailed with us as many as 15 or 20 times! Sheila Brohman and Ken Reycraft become Platinum Oceania Club members on this voyage because it is their 20th cruise, which is free as part of the Oceania Club program.

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The next evening Kunal, Daniela, Captain Luca Manzi and General Manager Thierry Tholon greeted guests as they arrived for the Captain’s Welcome Reception, always a favorite event of our Oceania Club members.

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Kunal, Captain Manzi and the Senior Officers expressed their deep appreciation for all of our loyal guests, and Captain Manzi offered a toast in their honor. Following the reception, many of our guests enjoyed dinner in Toscana, and it was my great pleasure to join them!

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Nick DeSantis with Mr. and Mrs. Addleson

Toscana is one of my favorite restaurants, and here is one reason why: Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma Ham with Candied Cherry Tomato. Delicious!

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Kunal and Daniela also enjoyed dining with several Oceania Club members in Toscana that evening.

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Captain Luca Manzi hosted guests in Toscana as well. They enjoyed their evening so much that they asked Toscana Chef Raffaele Saia and Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin to sign their menus.

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What a wonderful cruise it has been so far, and this is only the beginning. I’ll be sure to share more stories and photos here on the blog very soon!

June 19, 2012

OCEANIA CLUB REUNION CRUISE VISITS CASABLANCA

 

Hassan II Mosque - Casablanca

Today Riviera arrived in Casablanca, a unique complement to the European ports of call on this Oceania Club Reunion Cruise. Oceania Cruises President Kunal S. Kamlani, Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis (pictured left) and many other guests enjoyed excursions to the enormous Hassan II Mosque, one of Casablanca’s most splendid landmarks.

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Standing on a promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the imposing mosque is the largest in Morocco and by some measurements the third largest in the world. It can accommodate up to 105,000 worshippers, including 25,000 at prayer inside and an additional 80,000 outside on the grounds. The minaret is the tallest in the world, soaring to a height of over 210 meters. At night a beam from the minaret shines toward Mecca.

The interior is as impressive as the façade. All of the building materials are from local sources, with the exception of the chandeliers, which are made with Murano glass from Venice. The ceiling of the mosque is made from cedar, all of it elaborately carved by hand.

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After the mosque, Riviera guests stopped at the olive market in the Habous Quarter. The variety of olives was astounding with every color, shape and size imaginable. The vendors were very friendly, and guests were able to sample many different kinds of olives. What a treat!

IMG-20120619-00330 IMG-20120619-00332Interestingly, this unique Reunion Cruise itinerary transits the Strait of Gibraltar not once, but twice. Last night Riviera sailed from Gibraltar to Casablanca, and tomorrow she sails for Motril, Spain, where guests will have the opportunity to travel to Grenada and visit the amazing Alhambra. Keep following the blog to read about more adventures on the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise!

June 18, 2012

REUNION CRUISE VISITS GIBRALTAR

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The Oceania Club Reunion Cruise sailed from Lisbon yesterday, and today Riviera called on the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, which is actually a peninsula of mainland Spain. Approximately three miles wide, this small strip of land is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, which reaches a height of 1,400 feet. A group from the Reunion Cruise took a shore excursion to go explore the Rock. While you might expect this to be a fairly "tame" tour, think again. Most people had heard of the Barbary Apes that live on the Rock, but no one expected them to jump right onto the bus!

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Bud and Stephana Dean from Bossier City, Louisiana, are on their first voyage with Oceania Cruises, and it has been an exciting one so far. They both were surprisingly calm when one of the apes decided to hop onto Bud’s shoulders for a photo op.

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They were not the only brave souls that got up close and personal with the apes.

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This excursion was certainly a memorable one!

June 16, 2012

REUNION CRUISE GUESTS ARRIVE IN LISBON

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Anticipation is growing by the hour as guests arrive in Lisbon for the 8th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise aboard Riviera. Many guests flew in today, one day prior to sailing, so they could enjoy some extra time exploring Lisbon before boarding the ship. As they checked in to the hotel, they were warmly greeted by the Oceania Cruises Hospitality Desk.

Guests have already been sharing so many terrific stories of their adventures in Lisbon. While we can't share them all, there is one in particular that we wanted to pass along. You guessed it – a food story.

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One of our guests came across a pastry shop named Pastéis de Belém and was raving about the delicious tarts. Evidently these delights have quite a storied past. The Pastel de Belém is a crispy puff pastry loaded with a warm custard filling and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar on top. Legend has it that a group of monks sold the secret recipe in 1837 to the family that now owns this famous pastry shop. As of today, only three people know the recipe, and we are told that they don't travel together. Next time you’re in Lisbon for an Oceania Cruise, you might want to check this spot out!

June 14, 2012

PRESIDENT TO JOIN REUNION CRUISE ONBOARD RIVIERA

In just three days, we will host the 8th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise onboard our newest ship, Riviera.  As some of you may know, we offer Reunion Cruises once or twice a year as a way to express our appreciation to our loyal guests. Whether you’ve sailed with us two times or 20 times, we are always thrilled to welcome back past guests to Oceania Cruises. And on this Reunion Cruise, I’m excited to be doing so personally.

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My wife, Daniela, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible when we sail from Lisbon on June 17. For some of you who will be sailing on the Reunion Cruise, this will be your first time experiencing the beautiful new Riviera, and I think you will be as impressed as we were when we first stepped onboard for her inaugural cruise in May.

Those of you who have been on previous Reunion Cruises may have met Nick DeSantis, manager of the Oceania Club. He has put together several special shore excursions for this cruise, including an intriguing one in Barcelona known as Gaudí’s Hidden Treasures. Guests will travel to Colònia Güell, a village constructed by textile magnate Eusebio Güell, who was one of Antoni Gaudí’s primary patrons. The unfinished church here, known as “The Crypt,” is one of Gaudí’s greatest masterpieces.

Photo-36Of course, there will be many special events onboard as well. I am especially looking forward to the caviar brunch in the Grand Dining Room, which promises to be a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite. During the evening, we’re planning an exclusive cocktail party for our Oceania Club members, hosted by the senior officers and myself, and we’ll host several dinners for those guests who have traveled with us most frequently. We’ll have Gold and Platinum Oceania Club members onboard who have sailed with us as many as 15 or 20 times.

One afternoon we will feature a “town hall” where I look forward to your feedback on how we can continue to enhance the Oceania Cruises experience. While we read every guest comment card, there is simply no substitute for an interactive dialogue.

For many, the Reunion Cruise has become an annual event where they reunite with friends they have made on previous cruises. And guests are always telling me how much they look forward to seeing crew members again. It seems that so many people who sail on Oceania Cruises ships make friends who become like family. You might say this cruise is our version of a “family reunion.” That said, it’s certainly on a much grander scale than my family reunions have ever been!

I have a lot of work (and packing!) to do before departure, so for now I’d better get back to it. If you’ll be joining us on the Reunion Cruise, please feel free to introduce yourself in the comments here on the blog. And check back next week as I’ll be posting photos and stories from the ship.

Happy Cruising!

March 23, 2012

A CELEBRATION OF THE FIRST OCEANIA CLUB DIAMOND MEMBERS

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

 

June 20, 2011

Reveries from Regatta: ADVENTURES IN THE ALASKAN WILDERNESS


      

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Regatta has been exploring the amazing natural wonders of the great state of Alaska this summer, and guests have enjoyed numerous adventures in the Alaskan wilderness.

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In Sitka guests took an ocean raft through narrow inland passages and open bays to observe the magnificent array of wildlife native to the area.

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Most travelers who come to Alaska hope to spot a humpback whale, and guests on this excursion from Sitka were not disappointed.

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Alaska06Guests also spotted this majestic bald eagle during their adventure.

Alaska07In Icy Strait Point, one excursion offered the opportunity to kayak the pristine waters and observe whales, sea lions and porpoises up close and personal.

Alaska08Thrill-seeking guests chose to go for an exhilarating ride on the world's longest zipline.

Alaska09Guests sped along just 300 feet above the dense green forest at speeds approaching 60 miles per hour.

Alaska10 From their vantage point on the zipline, guests could enjoy sweeping views of Port Frederick, Icy Strait Point and Regatta at anchor in the bay.

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Regatta also sails the seas along magnificent Hubbard Glacier during her voyages in Alaska.

  Alaska13The charming town of Ketchikan is known as "The Salmon Capital of the World." Guests joined an excursion with a group of seasoned Bering Sea fishermen to explore the incredible scenery along the coastal waters of Ketchikan.


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But these fishermen weren't hunting salmon. As guests observed, the skilled fishing crew hauled in crab pots filled with king crab. Guest could even "interact" with the catch of the day if they so desired!

Alaska15Next on the itinerary was Juneau. Many flightseeing tours are offered from Alaska's capital city, and guests onboard Regatta joined an excursion to see the snow-capped mountains, lush forests and cascading waterfalls en route to Taku Glacier Lodge.

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The scope of the glaciers was nearly inconceivable.

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After a day of viewing the majestic glaciers, guests were treated to a delicious lunch of freshly caught salmon.

Alaska19This black bear couldn't resist the aroma of salmon on the grill!

Alaska20Guests certainly had many wondrous tales to tell of their day's adventures when returning to Regatta after each day exploring Alaska's shores.

Alaska21Even after the sun dips below the horizon, there is no end to the spectacular views to be witnessed along the Alaskan skyline.  

June 2, 2011

News from Nautica: JEWELS OF THE AEGEAN

    

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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. 

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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.

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

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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

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

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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.

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Almost there...

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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.

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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!
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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.

May 31, 2011

AN EVENING AT LA RESERVE

   

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

La Reserve Table

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

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

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

Salts

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

Amuse Bouche

The amuse bouche was a Lobster and Mascarpone Pancake with Baby Carrot Emulsion and Rock Chive Cress. The flavors were exquisite, and this certainly whet our appetites for what was still to come.
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The delicate Pommery Brut Rose Champagne paired perfectly with the lobster.
Cream of Porcini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2011

A SALUTE TO OCEANIA CRUISES' EXTRAORDINARY STAFF AND CREW

  

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

Ishmael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anabelle Waje

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

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

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2011

Messages from Marina: FOND MEMORIES OF THE 2011 REUNION CRUISE

  

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

OC Cocktail Hosts

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

OC Cocktail Decor

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

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

Captain's Welcome

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

 

Blogger and Captain

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

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

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

Spare Anchor

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

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

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

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

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

May 14, 2011

Messages from Marina: BEAUTIFUL SANTORINI

Santorini Panorama

Yesterday Marina sailed to Santorini, a particularly charming Greek island of volcanic cliffs dotted with whitewashed facades and brilliant blue domes. There is an interesting history surrounding this volcanic island, from its occupation by various empires to the legend of Atlantis that draws visitors to its shores.

Santorini from tinder
However when you arrive in Santorini and climb the soaring cliffs, whether by foot, donkey or cable car, it is easy to forget any historical references and simply savor the beautiful tranquility of the present. As we were preparing to disembark Marina, our server Tyrone told us that Santorini is a great place in which to lose yourself. He was absolutely right. We meandered the cobblestone streets, sat cliffside sipping local wine, absorbed the stunning views, and forgot everything but the moment at hand.

Below are some of the photos we captured of the lovely views we found at every turn. It is no wonder that Santorini is one of the most photographed of the Greek islands.

Santorini Dome and Cliff

Santorini Clock Tower
Santorini View

Santorini Me and Ship

Santorini Pool and Umbrellas

Santorini Center

  Marina Santorini

Santorini even provided the ideal frame for a shot of Marina. One would be hard pressed to say which was lovelier, the ship or her port of call. Should your travels with Oceania Cruises take you to Santorini, prepare to savor every moment ashore.

May 12, 2011

Messages from Marina: REUNION CRUISE CALLS ON CORFU

  

Achilleion Palace

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

Achilles

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


Death of Achilles

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


Villa Rosa

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


Villa Rosa Garden

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

Corfu Host

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

Villa Rosa Dancers

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

Teaching Greek Dances

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

 Nick and Dancer

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



May 10, 2011

Messages from Marina: MEDIEVAL GEMS OF THE ADRIATIC

 

  Buffet Fruit Sculpture

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

Caviar
Caviar was the highlight of the grand affair.
Croquenbouche

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

Dubrovnik Bridge

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

 

Dubrovnik View

Marina Night Dubrovnik

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


Marina Kotor 1

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

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

 

May 7, 2011

Messages from Marina: REUNION CRUISE GUESTS ARRIVE IN VENICE

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

Gondolas

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

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

 Bruschetta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boat and Hosts

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

April 27, 2011

Messages from Marina: THE 2011 REUNION CRUISE APPROACHES

 

DSC_3399 (Medium)
After completing a fourth transoceanic crossing, Marina arrived in Europe last week, where she will sail her inaugural summer season. While docked in Livorno, hundreds of guests ventured out to explore the treasures of Florence, Pisa, and the Tuscan countryside. Nearly six hundred guests returned from their excursions to Marina's first "Welcome Back" party, in which a host of jovial crew members, a band and cool beverages celebrated the guests' return to the ship. It appears each new "first" for Marina continues to be a jubilant event enjoyed by all.

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DSC_3356 (Medium)

Having explored the shores of Spain and France, Marina will now linger a bit in Italy before continuing on to the lovely Greek Isles. Next week marks the beginning of the 7th Annual Oceania Club Reunion Cruise, always a marvelous journey for all onboard and featuring exclusive cocktail parties, dinners, excursions and other surprises for Oceania Club members. 

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Guests will be able to linger on the lovely beaches of several Greek islands such as Zakynthos and Mykonos.

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They can also meander the streets of lovely towns like Corfu and visit historic sights like the Achillion Palace.

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Santorini is an especially scenic island of Greece, offering spectacular views over the whitewashed towns as well as of the ship anchored in the glistening bay.

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You can see below that Mykonos is the perfect place to enjoy dinner ashore at a seaside cafe.

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Charming coastal towns aren't the only appeal of Greece. There are also grand cities of immense historical significance such as Athens, where the voyage concludes. From the crest of the Acropolis, one can capture spectacular views of the impressive temples and amphitheaters that draw visitors to this beautiful city time and again. 

Acropolis View
The Reunion Cruise promises to be an amazing voyage, and as Blogger-at-Large, I am thrilled to be joining this sailing. I will keep you up to date on the exciting events onboard and share my own perspectives and insights on the stunning new Marina. I hope you will follow my adventures on the blog and share your comments here as well!

December 31, 2010

PRESIDENT BOB BINDER REFLECTS ON 2010

 

61 Bob Binder & Frank Del Rio have the first drink on the ship.
As 2010 draws to a close, I naturally reflect on my fondest memories of the past year. There have been so many milestones as we have progressed toward Marina's debut, not to mention beginning construction on her sister, Riviera. I think of the float-out ceremony for Marina and of watching her take to the seas for the first time. I remember the steel cutting ceremony for Riviera and the laying of the keel. Needless to say, 2010 has been a momentous year for all of us at Oceania Cruises, and as Marina's debut grows ever closer, we know that 2011 is sure to be even more exciting.

Bob's Table2011 will certainly kick off with the countdown to Marina's christening, but as I reflect on 2010 and look back through the stories on the blog, I am reminded that we have three beautiful ships already sailing the seas and creating fond memories for everyone onboard. For me, the Reunion Cruise onboard Regatta immediately comes to mind as one of the highlights of 2010. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to not only meet so many of our guests, but also to have the time onboard to chat with so many of you and to get to know you better.  I enjoyed hearing stories of your favorite Oceania Cruises adventures, and I was especially privileged to congratulate many of you on your tenth, fifteenth, and even twentieth Oceania Cruise.

During the Reunion Cruise, I had the pleasure of dining with several of our guests, and I wish there had been enough time for me have dinner with everyone onboard. The dining experience on an Oceania Cruise gives me the opportunity to do two of my favorite things, savor fine food and enjoy the company of fine people. While on the Reunion Cruise, Executive Chef Mickael Tochetto did me the honor of preparing a special patio dinner for myself and guests of Regatta's Owner's and Vista suites. I still remember the exquisite menu and the pleasant conversation. So in honor of 2010 and all of our guests who enjoy the fine cuisine onboard Oceania Cruises, I thought I would share some photos of that lovely evening.

Patio Dinner Hosts

Our hosts - Food and Beverage Director Balazs Fekete, Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto, Executive Sous Chef Anthony Mauboussin, Restaurant Manager Vladimir Cavic, and Cellar Master Ivica Kolric

Pation Dinner Table
The lovely table settings

Ivitca at Patio DinnerThe Cellar Master ensured that each course was paired with the perfect wine.

Patio Dinner Lobster
The appetizer course - Blue Lobster, Oyster, Marinated Mussels, Almond Clams, and Wasabi Mayonnaise

SusanMrs. Denkers selected the Roasted Veal Chop "Normandy" with Carmelized Apples, Calvados and Mushroom Sauce for her entree.

SteveMr. Denkers especially enjoyed dessert - a work of art from the pastry chef!

Patio Dinner Chefs

A  job well done by Chef Mauboussin, Chef Tocchetto, and Pastry Chef Jose D Silva

Bob and Guests
Myself and guests, the Mundys, the Nirenblatts, and the Timcos.

Chefs and Guests
A wonderful time was had by all that evening, and I raise a toast to all of our guests who will enjoy fine cuisine, dear friends, and fascinating journeys onboard Oceania Cruises in 2011.  Best wishes for a Happy New Year and a fantastic 2011 from all of the Oceania Cruises family!

October 7, 2010

A Modern Marvel in a Historical City: The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

   Guggenheim Sign

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I was privileged to travel onboard Regatta with the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise for the past two weeks. I dined like a queen, was pampered in the spa, made many new friends, and collected countless stories to share with you here on the blog. I thought I would start with one of the fascinating destinations along our Western Mediterranean itinerary. While I greatly enjoyed each and every port, I had especially been looking forward to seeing Bilbao, Spain, and its Guggenheim Museum. I was not disappointed.

Peter welcomes
As I wanted to make the most of my time in Bilbao, I joined one of Oceania Cruises' Excursions. As we debarked the ship, our charming tour guide, Peter, welcomed us to our motorcoach for the short drive to the city's center. You may be thinking, the name Peter doesn't sound very Spanish, and you would be correct. Peter is actually German, but his wife is Basque, and he has lived in the region for more than 20 years. He is quite fond of the northern region of Spain and the disciplined, hardworking Basque people whose attitudes and mentality he describes as similar to the Germans. He is pleased that cultural phenomena such as the Guggenheim have drawn astute tourists to the area, and he is happy to let those who want to lie on a beach visit the south of Spain. We can tell right away that Peter has an endearing personality, a great sense of humor, and a firm grasp on the English language.

Classic and Modern

We begin with a walking tour of the Old Town and a bit of history to get us oriented. Bilbao is both a modern and historical city in the Basque region of Spain, about ten miles up the Nervion River from the Bay of Biscay. (Note the modern sculpture in front of the Baroque architecture of City Hall pictured above.) While villages were beginning to appear on the shores of the river centuries earlier, the city was officially founded in 1300 by Don Diego Lopez, and its government charter brought with it many rights and privileges that led to the city’s rapid growth. Bilbao experienced a period of decline in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the demand for iron ore led to renewed growth in the 19th century, and Bilbao became a strong industrial center.

  Arriaga Theater

The Old Town was severely damaged by flood in 1983. The water level reached the ceiling of the first floor of the Arriaga Theatre (pictured above), which required extensive renovations. Bilbao has since reinvented itself as a center for tourism and services. With an ambitious plan for urban development, the city created a transportation infrastructure that included an international airport, a subway system designed by Sir Norman Foster, and a footbridge across the Nervion by Santiago Calatrava. To secure a renowned cultural center for the city, the Basque government courted the Guggenheim Foundation and offered to foot the cost for the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which was completed in October 1997 for a cost of over $100 million.

Widest View
Peter confessed that he was originally opposed to the expense and the idea of the museum in Bilbao, but happily admits his error in judgment. The museum has invigorated Bilbao, inspired pride in its citizens, and of course brought millions of tourists to the city. 

Ann David Puppy

Regatta guests David and Anne Joffe are pictured above with Jeff Koons' floral sculpture of a West Highland terrier that welcomes visitors to the Guggenheim. Once a traveling exhibit, it is now part of the museum's permanent collection, as the Bilbao citizenry grew quite attached to the aptly named Puppy.

Best Bridge
The museum building itself is a work of art both inside and out, a fascinating amalgam of different spaces, forms, and materials. Everywhere you look the eye is infatuated.  Frank Gehry of course designed the museum, and according to Peter, his design was chosen over other competing architects because it best integrated the city with the river that has always been its core and lifeline. The exterior surface is covered in titanium plates, chosen on the one hand because they are guaranteed to resist corrosion for 100 years, but primarily because they resemble the scales of a fish, a motif of which Gehry is quite fond and which likewise links the city to the river.

Far Tulips

Close Tulips
Pictured above: Tulips by Jeff Koons

When people hear the term "modern art," their reactions run the gamut from utter fascination to "pshaw." Before you determine which way you lean, I  encourage you to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao and to see it with an experienced guide. David was our guide inside the museum, and it is hard to say which were more valuable - his insights or his encouragement of us to discover our own.

The currently featured collection is by Anish Kapoor, creator of Chicago’s famous “Bean” - a nickname that indicates the work's accessibility and also the city’s affection for the giant, reflective orb in Millennium Park. Cloud Gate (the actual name of the piece) is an equally appropriate title that touches on the beauty and power that likewise define Kapoor’s art. Part of Kapoor’s brilliance is his ability to take what appear to be simple forms and elevate them to the sublime, using the interaction of light, color, presence and context to engage the onlooker in a way that creates a personal experience.

Shooting Into the Corner
Shooting into the Corner. As part of this provocative piece by Kapoor, a man periodically emerges to load the cannon and fire a cartridge of red wax into the corner wall.

While Kapoor's work can be quite dramatic as above, it is often much more subtle. Forget all of the artsy babble and consider Kapoor’s work Yellow, in which he paints a single shade of yellow in the shape of a huge square with a concave center that actually sinks into the wall. From a distance the shading created by the concavity inspires a vision of the sun’s warmth. Only as you get closer do you realize the work is three-dimensional. Western artists for centuries have been using color in two-dimensions to create the illusion of depth, but Kapoor uses color and depth to create the illusion of two dimensions. And all of Kapoor’s works evolve with each step you take toward or away from them, so that your own consciousness is always part of the artwork itself. While in classical art, you often have to know the story of the artist or the history of the work to understand it, modern art is more often about experience and perspective, so that to appreciate it, you may only have to know your own mind.

Far Serra
I haven’t even touched on the permanent collection by Richard Serra, which began with the construction of the enormous, undulating steel structure known as Snake, which so anchored the Guggenheim’s largest gallery that seven more pieces were commissioned to join it and named collectively The Matter of Time. Serra's work invites you in to explore. You may get lost, if you're lucky.

Close Serra 2
Enter Serra 2

You can also see Warhol and Rauschenberg and other modern masters, but if words or photos could do justice to these works, you wouldn’t need to visit the museum. While I am obviously a fan, I realize each of us has our own taste in art. So rest assured that Bilbao has a Museum of Fine Arts featuring an extensive classical arts collection, and the city also offers many charms beyond the realm of the creative arts. If you’re at all intrigued, both Marina and Insignia will visit Bilbao as part of their Western Mediterranean itineraries in May 2011. 

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October 1, 2010

President Bob Binder Raises Toast to Our Oceania Club Members

Sheila shakes GM hand 

Ms. Sheila Brohman shakes the hand of General Manager Christian Krempl as he presents her Oceania Club Gold Pin signifying her 15th cruise. Behind her Mr. Ken Reycraft waits to receive his Gold Pin as well.

While onboard Regatta this past week, it was such a treat to chat with guests who were on their fifth, tenth, and even fifteenth Oceania Cruise. Of course, I also enjoyed meeting several guests who were on their first voyage, but as this was the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise, the majority of the guests had traveled with us before. It was such a privilege to welcome these guests onboard again and to hear the stories of all their journeys with Oceania Cruises. Cocktail Shrimp Display
Captain Jahn Raye and myself hosted a cocktail party in the Regatta Lounge to show our appreciation for all of our Oceania Club members and to recognize those guests who have traveled with us many times. It was a festive affair with an ice sculpture, floral fruit carvings, champagne, and of course, great company.  

Pictured below are some of our guests who received their Bronze Oceania Club Pins commemorating their fifth cruise.

Belasco & Nirenblatt
Mr. Richard Belasco, Mrs. Susan Belasco, Mr. Norman Nirenblatt, Mrs. Rebecca  Nirenblatt

Coverdale
Mr. Glen Coverdale and Mrs. Linda Coverdale

Teron & Ferraro
Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis, Mr. William Teron, Mrs. Jean Teron, Mr. Richard Ferraro, Mrs. Wendy Ferraro

Tymkiw & Doherty
Mrs. Tamara Timkiw, Dr. Stephan Timkiw, Mr. Paul Doherty, Mrs. Nancy Doherty

We also had guests onboard celebrating another milestone. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Battaglia received their Silver Oceania Club Pins in honor of their tenth cruise. 

Anita Battaglia
Mrs. Anita Battaglia receives her Silver Pin from General Manager Christian Krempl while Social Hostess Kami Rodgers and Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis look on.

Battaglias with Bob and co
Myself, Mr. Robert Battaglia, General Manager Christian Krempl, Mrs. Anita Battalgia, Captain Jahn Rye, Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis

For our grand finale, Mr. Kenneth Reycraft and Ms. Sheila Brohman received their Gold Oceania Club Pins in recognition of their fifteenth cruise with us.  It was such an honor to have all of these guests onboard and to celebrate such memorable milestones with them. I look forward to my next opportunity to join one of our cruises and meet so many of our wonderful guests.

Ken Sheila Guests
Mr. and Mrs. William Teron pictured with Mr. Reycraft and Ms. Brohman

 

 

 

 

September 20, 2010

Regatta Visits Lovely La Rochelle

La Rochell Clock and Boats
Today guests onboard the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise enjoyed a lovely visit to La Rochelle, France. The weather was absolutely perfect - sunny and 72 degrees - making it a fine day to explore the Old Port, visit the Aquarium, and then return to the ship to relax by the pool for a bit before dinner. All in all it was a great day to be cruising on Regatta!

La Rochelle Towers

Two of the famous towers of La Rochelle, dating to the 14th and 15th centuries.

  La Rochelle Aquarium

The city has a fabulous aquarium.

La Rochelle Camo Fish

Can you find the five fish in this photo?

La Rochelle Lobster Etc

More of our finned and crustaceanous friends

La Rochelle Yellow Fish

A colorful bunch, and with personality too!

La Rochelle Market

Continuing on through the town, we reach the local market, which of course offers cold cuts, cheeses and pastries.  A light snack whets our appetite, so it's back to the ship for lunch!

 

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September 19, 2010

The President's Tales from the Annual Oceania Club Reunion Cruise

Bob and Friends Martinis
Oceania Cruises' President Bob Binder (second from left) and guests

Myself and other members of our Oceania Cruises' team joined our guests this week onboard Regatta for the annual Oceania Club Reunion Cruise. We departed London on Thursday and began our journey of 14 days during which we'll explore the coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal. Last evening Captain Jahn Rye hosted his Champagne Reception to officially welcome everyone to the ship. Introductions of the Captain and senior crew members were followed by entertainment from the 12-piece Regatta Orchestra. As you can see from the photo above, I had a quite enjoyable evening, as did everyone onboard.

Cruise Director Greet
Cruise Director David Shermet welcomes guests to the Captain's Champagne Reception in Regatta Lounge.

GM Lisa Captain 2
General Manager Christian Krempl, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland, and Captain Jahn Rye

Captain and Crew
Captain Rye and senior crew members greet Regatta's guests

Captain's Champagne Servers
The bartenders and service staff stand ready to entertain.

Elegant Dancers
This talented couple enjoyed dancing to the music of the Regatta Orchestra, and we all enjoyed watching their performance.

After the Champagne Welcome Reception, I savored a splendid dinner in the Grand Dining Room.  As usual Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto presented an exquisite menu offering such an array of delectable courses, it was difficult to decide between them.

Chef Jack Cathy Robert
Chef Tocchetto with Oceania Club Ambassador Robert Kinkhorst (right) and guests Jack and Kathy Mundy from Toronto.

Today we arrive in Lorient, where I shall continue to pursue my favorite French pastime - the search for the perfect pastry.  Yesterday I found one with chocolate and almonds that is definitely in the running. I'll keep you posted on my progress and on other events onboard and ashore as Regatta continues her journey in the days to come.

 

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August 18, 2010

Top Five Tips on What to Pack for an Oceania Cruise

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

Grandstairs
 

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

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

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

2. Pack comfortable shoes for exploring.

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

3. Some ports may have a dress code.

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

4. Don't skimp on the essentials.

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

5. Don't forget your passport.

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

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

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August 5, 2010

Who Will Be Onboard Regatta for the 2010 Oceania Club Reunion Cruise?

OceaniaClubCrestLarge
 

If you've traveled with Oceania Cruises before, you know that making new friends is always a part of the Oceania Cruises experience. The end of a cruise inevitably involves the exchange of contact information with newfound friends, hoping that your paths will cross again in the near future. Unfortunately, life ashore can be hectic, and it is often difficult to keep in touch. So what better way to reunite with friends from past cruises than on the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise? This year the Reunion Cruise departs from London on September 16th and explores nearly a dozen fascinating ports throughout France, Spain and Portugal before concluding in beautiful Monte Carlo.

I'm excited to announce that yours truly, Oceania Cruises' Blogger-at-Large, is now booked on the Reunion Cruise! I'm eagerly looking forward to reuniting with friends from past voyages as well as making new ones. There will be many opportunities to do so, considering the special onboard events and the exclusive excursions exploring destinations ashore. If you'll be joining me in September, please introduce yourself here in the blog comments. I can't wait to meet everyone onboard, and I look forward to sharing the stories of our adventures.

 

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