74 posts categorized " Onboard Happenings "

November 21, 2014

Holiday Wines: Our Favorite Red & Favorite White

Holidaywine1With the holidays just around the corner, and parties and gatherings filling your calendar, there are plenty of excuses to try a few new wines. Plus, with our new “Wine by the Bottle” program, sampling fine wines aboard our ships is more convenient and affordable than ever. Click for details.

Below, our Executive Cellar Master recommends one of Oceania Cruises’ favorite red wines and favorite white wines that make wonderful gifts, and are great to enjoy with loved ones during the holiday season – both aboard our ships and ashore. Cheers!

Angelo Gaja Chardonnay Rossj-Bass Langhe DOC
Piedmont, Italy 2008
$131
For the modern Chardonnay lover, there are finally competitors for the classic Burgundies and Gaja wines that are reaching high. The Rossj-Bass Chardonnay is all about elegance, finesse, minerality – and it’s perfectly balanced by a crisp dryness.

Sourced from a vineyard named for Angelo's youngest daughter, Rossana (known as Rossj for short) Rossj Bass is a clearly defined, graceful Chardonnay – enhanced by just a touch of Sauvignon Blanc – that spends less time in barrique than the Gaia & Rey.

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Almaviva Baron Philippe de Rothschild Viña Concha y Toro 
Maipo Valley, Chile 2010 
$153

The newly created league of the “Super Chilean Wines” has a unique wine addition – Almaviva. The expression of new world meets old in a memorable bottle made from a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties in which Cabernet Sauvignon predominates.

Chile offers its soil, its climate and its vineyards, while France contributes its winemaking savoir-faire and traditions. The result is an exceptionally elegant and complex wine. The blend says is it all: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Merlot bringing in perfect balance finesse, strength and elegance. Its complex and intense ruby red color with purple tones and long aftertaste make this a superb wine, precise in its character, accessible and remarkably balanced.

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November 17, 2014

Oceania Cruises Voyages Give New Meaning to "Holiday Travel"

Have you ever wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays and celebrate the season with a relaxing getaway? On these Oceania Cruises voyages, you can enjoy a festive holiday celebration while lounging on pristine beaches and exploring cultural wonders.

PACIFIC SERENADE, Valparaiso to Papeete, December 17, 2014

18 days on board Marina

Easter IslandWhether you celebrate on board Marina with the Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies or the Christmas Eve carolers, this voyage promises a special holiday treat with a call on a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has intrigued travelers for centuries. One of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, mystical Easter Island is famous for its hundreds of monolithic statues created between the 10th and 16th centuries. These moai were carved in the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku and then moved to sacred ceremonial platforms, the most colossal being Ahu Tongariki. Much mystery surrounds the methods used to construct and transport these impressive monuments, which reach up to 33 feet high and weigh up to 82 tons. Mull over this conundrum later in the voyage as you celebrate the New Year on the pristine beaches of Tahiti and Bora Bora.

SOUTH AFRICAN HOLIDAY, Cape Town to Cape Town, December 22, 2014

15 days on board Nautica

Holiday TravelSpend the holidays exploring the wonderful sights of South Africa, including a stop in the bustling city of Port Elizabeth on Christmas Eve. The city’s parks and museums offer great appeal, but many visitors are drawn to the game reserves just outside Port Elizabeth. About 45 miles north of the city, Addo Elephant National Park stands as living proof of the success of South Africa’s conservation efforts. When it was proclaimed a park in 1931, a mere 11 elephants lived in the area. Today the sanctuary is home to more than 350 elephants, as well as lions, rhinos, zebras and other indigenous wildlife. Enjoy a game drive through the park to observe these magnificent creatures. Then marvel at other natural wonders as you cruise along the Cape of Good Hope and ring in the New Year with a celebratory gala on the decks of Nautica.

HOLIDAYS IN THE TROPICS, Miami to Miami, December 23, 2014

12 days on board Riviera

CaribbeanNothing relieves holiday stress like a serene cruise along sapphire blue waters embraced by the elegant comforts of Riviera, beautifully decked in her most festive finery. Watch the warm sunshine sparkle like holiday lights on the sea as you cruise toward the idyllic islands of the Caribbean. Without you even lifting a finger, a splendid holiday feast with all of your traditional favorites will appear, created by Riviera’s master chefs. Who needs snow to enjoy a white Christmas when you can celebrate the season on the white sands of St. Barts and Antigua? As you greet the New Year on the spectacular beaches of the British Virgin Islands, you just might create a new holiday tradition.

November 10, 2014

Sneak Preview: Celebrity Guest Chefs in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 22, 2014

Discover Wondrous Destinations Even During a Day at Sea

LibraryJust as sailing aboard Oceania Cruises recalls the elegance of the Golden Age of Travel, our inspired English-style library is reminiscent of a charming English country estate where you can while away the hours in ultimate comfort. There is something magical about the dark, rich woods; plush wingback chairs; cozy fireplaces; and rows and rows of books lining the walls, each a new world waiting to be discovered.

On these shelves are more than 2,000 books and periodicals from which to choose, ranging from classic literature to destination guidebooks to bestselling mysteries. Renowned as publishers of fine books on the visual arts for nearly a century, Phaidon Press contributed some gorgeous coffee table books and other volumes that further enhance the inspiring ambiance.

For many who love travel, the e-book is one of the most exciting innovations in recent history, as we can now take an entire library with us in our suitcase. Still, there remains something visceral about the feel of a leather-bound, hardcover book in your hand, and something romantic about the flow of the printed words and the turning of the page. If anything, the proliferation of e-readers and tablets increases the dreamy aura surrounding printed books as they slowly become rarer, more classic and more antique. It is that dreaminess that our warm, elegant English-style library captures so perfectly, and that is why it is one of my favorite places on board the ship.

That being said, I’ve often read my tablet in the library, because this special place is as much about where you’re reading as what you’re reading. It’s simply the perfect environment in which to enjoy a good read and ready yourself for the next fascinating destination you’ll soon discover ashore.

I must admit that the library is also the ideal place to doze off. More than once I have literally dreamt of the places I was reading about – and the wonderful destinations I was then visiting in real life. Turns out, this isn’t by accident. Rumor has it that, when designing the library, Oceania Cruises founder Frank Del Rio insisted that no library has truly done its job until readers are so comfortable and content that they drift off into a blissful nap. Mission accomplished!

September 26, 2014

8 Tips: Travel Smart with Your Smartphone

PhoneSmartphones can help make international travel a breeze, but the price for convenient connectivity can quickly escalate, resulting in a surprisingly high bill when you return home. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to control the amount of data you use and the charges you incur – enabling you to take advantage of your smartphone when you really need it, and avoid paying for it when you actually don’t. Below are a few tips to help you reduce the amount of data you use,* and make the most of your smartphone when traveling.

Before you leave:

  1. Take a few minutes to review the setup of your phone and make sure you understand the settings—particularly those related to your apps and data.
  2. Refresh your memory on how to monitor your data usage in case you do want to check on this during your trip. (Most carriers offer apps that do this, otherwise you can log into your account on the carrier website.)
  3. Be sure to download any travel apps you may want to use while you’re away.

 During your trip:

  1. Turn off data roaming, cellular data and location services. This will help you avoid incurring charges unintentionally.
  2. Turn off push notifications from your Settings menu. You can individually manage the push notifications for each app, but it’s recommended you turn off all push notifications to avoid unexpected charges.
  3. In particular, remember to set your email to manual or turn off the “auto-check” (to avoid automatically downloading data-rich attachments).
  4. Turn on airplane mode unless you need to make a call, otherwise you’ll be charged for incoming calls and voicemails. You’ll still be able to access free Wi-Fi networks, you just won’t be able to call or text.
  5. Take advantage of free Wi-Fi and “hotspots” that offer it. You can send email, surf the Internet and use apps. Most importantly, data transfer over Wi-Fi networks will not result in charges from your wireless carrier, and you can even use apps like Skype and Google Voice to make calls.

FREE INTERNET: New for Winter 2015-2016

Shutterstock_104530886Beginning with our Winter 2015-2016 Collection, you can stay connected worry-free aboard all of our ships with NEW FREE Internet. Enjoy FREE Internet in all Owner’s, Vista and Oceania Suites, as well as up to 500 FREE Internet minutes (or equivalent data amount) with Concierge Level Staterooms and higher. In addition, take advantage of FREE Internet on all of our 180-Day World Cruises, Your World on Sale Voyages and select Grand Voyages. For more details on FREE Internet, our Internet Packages and Terms & Conditions, see our website.

 *The smartphone tips included in this post are not meant to be a comprehensive list ; please consult your cellular provider for further advice and particular tips relevant to your device in order to prevent unwanted charges. 

August 22, 2014

Q&A with Oceania Cruises’ Bridge Director Barbara Seagram

We recently had the chance to catch up with Barbara Seagram, one of Oceania Cruises’ much-loved Bridge Directors, and learn more about her and bridge aboard the ships.  An Oceania Cruises Bridge Director for the past six years, Barbara is an award-winning player and author of a number of celebrated bridge books, including the award-winning 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know. She enjoys traveling the world and teaching bridge with her husband, Alex Kornel, appreciating the opportunity to spend time with people from so many diverse countries.

Below, Barbara shares some insight into the game, and what she loves most about bridge on Oceania Cruises.

How did you first get involved in bridge?

My first mother-in-law sent me for lessons in 1975 with my current husband, her son. He did not like the smoke – in those days – while I took to the game with a vengeance. I loved every minute of it. Eventually I re-married (a bridge player of course) and we live happily ever after!

What do you appreciate about bridge aboard Oceania?

I love the passengers that travel on Oceania Cruises. They are very down to earth, and they appreciate the bridge programs provided and soak up all of it – it’s really very popular. On two of our recent sailings, we had 130 intermediate students on every sea day (19 days in total) and 45-50 beginners as well, who attended early in the morning. In the afternoons, we had 30 tables each day playing bridge, duplicate and party bridge. Imagine: 15% of passengers on the ship were playing bridge! It’s wonderful.

Can you share a Barbara Seagram tip with us?

When you make a lead in bridge, you want to try to paint a picture of what else you hold in that suit. You have to give a message to your partner. If you have K642, you lead the 2. We call this leading the Bottom of Something, i.e. your partner now knows you have an honor card. If you have “nothing” cards, i.e., 952, you lead the 9. We call this leading Top of Nothing. To help you remember this important tip, think of that wonderful city in Massachusetts – BOSTON – and that is what it stands for: The Bottom of Something and the Top of Nothing. And that of course is how the city got its name!

What advice do you have for newcomers to bridge?

If you take French lessons and never use the language, you'll never learn to speak French. Playing makes it all sink in. Bridge is a game of mistakes and every time you make one, you remember not to make the same one next time. Bridge is like golf for the brain and it has been shown to stave off Alzheimer’s. It can be humbling, but it is exhilarating and so much fun. Play at least twice a week and your skills will improve rapidly. Oceania Cruises offers both beginner's bridge lessons as well as intermediate, always providing top-level bridge instructors and directors.

Barbara takes pleasure in being able to continually share her expertise and enthusiasm for the game, and invites you to get involved during one of our upcoming Bridge Sailings, featuring an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor.

 

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Barbara Seagram with her husband, Alex Kornel, also a bridge instructor

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 An afternoon of bridge aboard Marina during her Grand Voyage, Mythical Travels, from Lima to London

August 8, 2014

CELEBRATE DEBUT OF PBS DOCUMENTARY SERIES THE ITALIAN AMERICANS ABOARD EXCLUSIVE VOYAGE

Italian-americans-cruiseWe’re pleased to announce an exciting collaboration with Artful Travelers to host the world premiere for the highly anticipated new PBS documentary series, The Italian Americans aboard Riviera this fall. Narrated by Academy Award–nominated actor Stanley Tucci, The Italian Americans consists of four, one-hour documentary films that chronicle the history of Italian Americans from the mid-19th century to present day. Examining the struggles and powerful ideals shared by many Italian immigrants, it ultimately explores how this community has left a distinct mark on America’s political, social and cultural landscape.

During this special voyage, filmmakers will host complimentary screenings for each individual one-hour episode in the Riviera Lounge, offering compelling insight into the film prior to the screening, and inviting you to participate in a Q&A session afterwards. Scheduled to appear during the voyage include:

Jeff Bieber – Executive producer for The Italian Americans and veteran executive producer for public television documentaries, specials, news and cultural programs at WETA, the public broadcasting station for the Washington, D.C. area. 

John Maggio – Writer, producer and director for The Italian Americans and acclaimed producer and director for PBS series Finding Your Roots, American Experience and FRONTLINE.

Maria Laurino – Creative nonfiction professor at New York University and the celebrated author of the national bestseller Were You Always an Italian?, an exploration into ethnic identity.

You’ll have the chance to attend a special book signing event featuring Maria Laurino, who penned a companion book for the series, entitled The Italian Americans: A History. In addition, we invite you to celebrate The Italian Americans premiere with special wine tastings highlighting some of Italy’s finest vintages and Italian-inspired cooking adventures at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, each for a nominal fee. You can even extend the enriching celebration to your explorations ashore by booking exclusive shore excursions that tie directly into The Italian Americans theme.

The Italian Americans package is available to you at no additional cost when booking the Oct. 29, 2014 Enchanting Riviera voyage. At the time of booking, you or your travel agent should request the promotional code "ARTFUL" to be added to your reservation. Special experiences with limited capacity, such as private dinners and intimate cocktail functions with guest speakers, will only be available if you specifically book The Italian Americans package. Learn more on the Signature Sailings page of our website, OceaniaCruises.com.

June 10, 2014

REGATTA REFURBISHMENT COMPLETE – GUESTS EXPERIENCE THE OLIFE IN ALASKA

By Kunal S. Kamlani, President

Regatta Alaska

Regatta Deck-WebWe’ve celebrated several significant milestones at Oceania Cruises over the past few years, from the launch of our first newly built ship, Marina, to the celebration of ten years at sea. This week I joined Regatta as she emerged from dry dock to embark on a 10-day Alaskan voyage from Vancouver to Seattle.  It was immediately apparent that another pinnacle had been reached.

From the moment you step on board, you are struck by Regatta’s amazing transformation. She possesses a renewed sense of style and grace, but maintains that elegance and warmth our guests love. Regatta’s return to service marks the culmination of the most massive refurbishment in Oceania Cruises’ history – a $50 million makeover of our original trio of ships from bow to stern.

The true joy of being on board was seeing the reactions of our guests. Feedback on Insignia and Nautica has been overwhelmingly positive, and that same excitement was evident on Regatta. Comments ranged from the beauty and comfort of the suites and staterooms to the casual elegance of a completely new Terrace Café.

Terrace-GrillOne key objective of the refurbishment plan was to incorporate some amenities and experiences we introduced with Marina and Riviera, such as Baristas coffee bar and the cook-to-order grill in Terrace Café. Given that all elements of a refurbished ship must be fully tested, I took it upon myself to ensure that the new grill delivered on its promise. The steaks, lamb chops, shrimp, scallops and lobster tails did not disappoint. And I found the illy espressos in Baristas to be just as popular as they are on Marina and Riviera. It was truly gratifying to watch our guests aboard Regatta experience the beauty of Alaska while enjoying what we endearingly refer to as the OlifeTM.

 

The new upgrades to Regatta and her sisters, Insignia and Nautica, reflect our commitment to continually raising the bar on the Oceania Cruises experience and exceeding the high expectations of our guests. It was a pleasure to meet so many of you on board, and on behalf of the entire Oceania Cruises family, I thank you for sharing your excitement and feedback on the refurbishment. For others who are sailing or will soon sail with us, we hope you’ll share your impressions here on the blog. We look forward to hearing from you!

May 16, 2014

NAUTICA EMERGES WITH MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR RENOVATIONS AND ENHANCED BULGARI AMENITIES

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

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

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

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

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

May 8, 2014

INSIGNIA RETURNS TO THE FLEET WITH A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER

Pool Deck(New)
An exciting and emotional day for the entire Oceania Cruises family, today we welcome our beloved Insignia back to the fleet. We are especially excited because her return from a two-year charter marks Oceania Cruises’ first season with a five-ship fleet. But that isn’t the only reason Insignia is generating such excitement. She arrived in Barcelona today with even more style, grace and elegance than ever before, fresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover.

With $50 million in renovations distributed among the three sister ships, Insignia is the first to undergo the most massive refurbishment in Oceania Cruises history. Four weeks from now, Regatta and Nautica will also have completed their bow-to-stern transformation.

Upon Insignia’s arrival in Barcelona this morning, we received a few photos that capture the stunning renovations, and we are thrilled to be sharing them here. You can see Insignia still possesses the same elegance and charm but now glows with a new polish and shine, courtesy of luxurious new fabrics and furnishings, as well as many new amenities.

PenthouseSuite(New)
Penthouse Suite

All of the suites and staterooms have been appointed with stylish new furnishings, and a new color palette in soothing shades of the sea, sun and sky completely transforms the Penthouse Suites. The Owner’s and Vista Suites are outfitted with lavish new oversized showers that are as big as an entire bathroom at home!

Public spaces also embody the new look. The expansive windows of Horizons lounge continue to offer spectacular sunsets, while the interior now features shades of sea blues, cocoa brown and mint, freshly complementing the view. And be sure to check out the new digs of Martinis and enjoy – what else? – a signature Big O Martini. For those who thought the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® on board couldn’t possibly be any more serene, don't miss the beautiful new mosaics that enhance the sense of tranquility even further.

Horizons(New)
Horizons

Rich new decor isn’t the only renovation on Insignia. Innovative features unveiled with the launch of our newest ships, Marina and Riviera, generated unprecedented excitement, so Oceania Cruises has taken this opportunity to add several of these features to Insignia, with Nautica and Regatta soon to follow. You can now enjoy an illy® cappuccino in Baristas on any ship in the fleet, and with the new specialty grill in Terrace Café, you can savor succulent surf and turf or grilled-to-order chops any night of the week. You can also take in fantastic views from the upper decks as you play nine holes of miniature golf, a feature found on no other ships in this class.

Baristas(New)
Baristas

Perhaps most exciting of all, the return of Insignia means that you can explore more of your world than ever before. Oceania Cruises wholeheartedly embraced this opportunity by debuting two never-before-offered 180-day World Voyages, which Insignia will sail beginning in January 2015 and again in July 2015. These amazing journeys are sure to inspire your inner artist, which is why the Artist Loft, another popular feature on Marina and Riviera, has been added to Insignia exclusively for these special voyages. Express your creativity with the world as your muse and artists-in-residence as your guide.

For those of you who set sail from Barcelona this afternoon on board the newly renovated Insignia, we’d love to hear your impressions in the comments here on the blog. Welcome home, Insignia, and bon voyage!

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.

April 10, 2014

VERNE LUNDQUIST: FROM THE PGA MASTERS TO MARINA

Verne-LundquistThe distinctive voice of Verne Lundquist has marked some of the most memorable moments in sports history, and guests on Marina’s Viking Passage voyage will have a chance to sail with the legendary broadcaster. Lundquist will be a guest speaker on the May 22, 2014, cruise and will share personal stories from some of the most unforgettable moments in sports as the ship completes a 16-day transoceanic voyage that will traverse the Eastern Seaboard and sail through the British Isles.  

Lundquist has been an indelible part of CBS’s coverage of collegiate basketball championships for years, and this week marks his 28th year calling the PGA® Masters Tournament. A sportscaster since 1977, Lundquist was inducted into the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in April 2007. His stories span the decades and a wide variety of sports from football to figure skating. My favorite part of any game is when an outstanding play inspires him to declare, “How DO you do?!”

If you’re sailing with Verne, make sure to ask him about his all-time favorite sports moment. He’s called many, but odds are it will either be Jack Nicklaus’s final Masters win, Tiger Woods’s dramatic chip shot at the 2005 Masters, or last year’s Alabama versus Auburn game.  

This is an experience our guests won’t soon forget. If you were sailing with Verne Lundquist, what sports moment would you like to discuss?  

April 2, 2014

BROADWAY STAR DEBUTS IN NEW Life in the Theater SERIES ON BOARD RIVIERA

Andrea McArdle Photo (by Grace Rainer Long)Theater fans will be thrilled to learn that today Oceania Cruises announced a new onboard entertainment series called Life in the Theater. Offered on select sailings, this fantastic new series gives guests the chance to not only see stellar performances by Broadway stars but also get up close and personal during special private events. The first stage legend welcomed on board will be none other than Andrea McArdle, who created the original role of “Annie” on Broadway.

After making history as the youngest performer ever nominated for the Tony Award® for Best Actress in a Musical, Ms. McArdle went on to star in such iconic roles as Fantine in Les Misérables and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She’s received wide acclaim for performances in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Metropolitan Opera House to the White House. Now this Broadway legend will take center stage on the Enchanting Riviera sailing, departing Athens on October 29, 2014, and exploring the Greek Isles, Italy and France before arriving in Monte Carlo.

There are a limited number of tickets available for the exclusive Life in the Theater package, which features eight special events where Ms. McArdle will share her talents in stage performances as well as her personal stories in more intimate events. All guests on this unique voyage will be treated to a superstar performance that is open to everyone, with guests purchasing the Life in the Theater package receiving preferred seating at this performance. Life in the Theater guests will also have exclusive access to all other events with Ms. McArdle, including a cocktail party, a private performance and several gatherings in which she shares tales of her life as a Broadway star, songs that are personal favorites and other details about the highs and lows, both dramatic and humorous, of her extraordinary personal journey.

If you wish to experience the secrets, struggles and successes of a Broadway star as well as fabulous performances (not to mention an extraordinary cruise on board Riviera!), I can imagine no better way than embarking on the Enchanting Riviera sailing with Andrea McArdle. And be sure to check back on the blog to see what Broadway superstars will be featured in future Life in the Theater sailings!

October 31, 2013

PUMPKIN CARVING ON BOARD RIVIERA

Carving competition1 The holidays are always a festive time on board the ships of Oceania Cruises – and Halloween is no exception! The chefs embraced the spooky spirit of the season in a pumpkin-carving contest onboard Riviera. Everyone put their knife skills to the test to concoct the creepiest, craziest, most creative jack o’lantern in the galley. Podium

We’ve always known our chefs were gifted, but they really showed off their artistic talents in carving these fearsome faces. The grand prize went to Assistant Cook Emmanuel Paygane. Cook I Komang Pamatha took second place, and Assistant Chef de Partie Vishant Raut took third.

Winners
Congratulations to each of them!

Of course, amidst the Halloween fun, our chefs continue to create the exquisite cuisine that our guests enjoy on board each day. In fact, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger was putting the finishing touches on a new salmon en croute to be served at lunch. Is your mouth watering yet?

Salmon crust prep FG

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Happy Halloween from your Oceania Cruises family!

September 25, 2013

MORE ADVENTURES WITH JACQUES PÉPIN ONBOARD RIVIERA

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

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

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

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

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

September 16, 2013

10TH-ANNIVERSARY SAILING CONCLUDES A YEAR OF CELEBRATION

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

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

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

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

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Gala Tea with Chef

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

 

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

September 11, 2013

REGATTA HOSTS MASTER CHEF JEAN-LOUIS DUMONET

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Jean-Louis Dumonet, Karen Dumonet and Eric Barale

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

 

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

 

 

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

September 10, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES FOUNDING CHAIRMAN JOE WATTERS HOSTS 10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING

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

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

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

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

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

 

July 13, 2013

A GRAND CELEBRATION AT SEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

July 7, 2013

ANNIVERSARY SAILING CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SPECTACULAR DESTINATIONS AND FINE CUISINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 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


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Asst. Electro Technical Milen Dimitrov Dimitrov
 
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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

June 17, 2013

GALA BRUNCH CELEBRATES OCEANIA CRUISES' 10TH ANNIVERSARY

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

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

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

Brunch service Fruit Torte

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

Chef Sculpting Fruit Sculpture

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

June 13, 2013

VICE CHAIRMAN BOB BINDER SENDS GREETINGS FROM 10TH ANNIVERSARY SAILING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 17, 2013

FANS TELL OF THE "MAGIC" OF OCEANIA CRUISES

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Brad and Maleta Smith are big fans of Oceania Cruises. They recently enjoyed a wonderful cruise onboard Riviera, and they’ve been singing the praises of the staff, in particular the housekeeping staff. The Smiths said their stateroom attendants, Anna and Iryna, “did a terrific job, were so very nice and a joy to be around.”

They also had an especially memorable evening during a magician’s performance onboard. Our thanks to Brad for sharing the following lovely story with us:

On a recent family cruise my mom was a participant in a magic show. Magician Fred Becker had her pick a card. He then performed an elaborate magic trick with the deck. At the end when he threw the deck into the air, his magic sword “found” my mom's card.

At the end of the show, he threw her card out into the audience. I was lucky enough to retrieve it after a brief frantic search. I knew this would make a great memento of our time together.

For a Mother's Day gift, I took this card and a bio of Fred to a local shop where they expertly mounted it so the card appears to be floating inside the frame. You can see the hole where the card was skewered by the sword. When I presented this to my mom, she loved it and said it was a great memento of our trip.

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May 16, 2013

WENDY PERRIN REPORTS FROM MARINA’S GRAND PANAMA CANAL VOYAGE

Wendy-PerrinIf you read The Perrin Post, Wendy Perrin’s blog for Condé Nast Traveler, you know that she has been sharing photos and stories from her adventures onboard Marina’s Grand Panama Canal cruise. So far she has offered a couple of posts on how to recover luggage lost by the airline, great stories of the guests she has met and the activities onboard this 20-day cruise and some wonderful photos and information about the Panama Canal and Cartagena.

Onboard Marina as a guest lecturer, Perrin is offering practical travel tips and fascinating stories about places that every travel lover should visit. To see her posts on her travels with Oceania Cruises, check out her blog.

 

April 26, 2013

50 DAYS AT SEA FOR 50 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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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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February 18, 2013

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

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

Tom DeFrank

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy Perrin

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2013

THE SECRETS BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

For the past eight months, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and the rest of the Oceania Cruises culinary team have been designing and testing new menus for the fleet’s flagship restaurant, the Grand Dining Room. The menus in the Grand Dining Room change daily, and in total, Garanger has created 85 new recipes for 14 different menus.

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One of Garanger’s latest creations: Zucchini-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Parmesan Cheese and Angel Hair Pasta al Limone

“If you just copied other recipes or used a cookbook, you could do this rollout in two months,” Garanger says. “But we try to be unique in every single recipe we create, and that is a lengthy process requiring the dedicated efforts of the entire team.”

Photo 21So what is Garanger’s creative process for conceiving all of these unique recipes? “I start to think about the recipe and then I start to make notes. Then I prepare it once. If I’m lucky, I only have to prepare the dish three or four times before it’s finalized. But often I have to try it eight or ten times before it’s perfect. And sometimes I give up!” Garanger chuckles. “Sometimes I say, okay, this one is never going to work – and then maybe it works a few years later. It happens sometimes.”

Garanger’s conception of the recipes is only the first step in a launch of this scale. Once the recipes are designed, a great deal of product research must be done to secure all of the new ingredients. This is one of the challenges facing restaurants operating onboard a ship versus restaurants ashore.

“Fresh products are purchased in every port, and the availability changes depending on whether you’re in South America or Europe or Asia, so the executive chefs have to plan ahead and make adjustments,” Garanger explains. “Meanwhile, dry goods and frozen items are delivered via shipping containers, which can take a long time to reach the ship. If a container is traveling from Miami to Europe, it may take three weeks. To ensure we have all the necessary ingredients for these new recipes, we had to begin scheduling these shipments months in advance.”

Onboard restaurants are open seven days a week, 365 days a year, another aspect of shipboard operations requiring ingenuity in management. Galleys operate around the clock, and shifts must be staffed accordingly. Training and oversight must be constant and diligent.

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As an example of the team’s commitment to the ingredients, design and process of recipes from start to finish, consider the dinner baguette in the Grand Dining Room. Only the finest (and most expensive) French flour is used – Viron flour harvested in the Beauce region – because it has a lower gluten content and thus more flavor. The flour is shipped direct from France, and each batch of dough goes through a two-stage proofing process to release the full aromas of the flour. The dough is refrigerated to proof overnight and then worked, formed into baguettes and proofed again before baking. And this is just to create the dinner baguette, one of thousands of items prepared onboard each day.

Here Garanger and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti discuss the finer points of the baguette wafer that will accompany the new Grand Dining Room dish: Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Artichoke Salpicon, Tomato Coulis and Poblano Chili Aioli.

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Considering the complex methods required to make an exceptional baguette, you can imagine how involved the process is when launching entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. The rollout will take nearly four months to complete across the entire fleet, with each ship requiring a full cruise for initial implementation and another full cruise for follow-up training.

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The new dishes are a feast for the senses. The flavor profiles are rich and diverse, and the presentation is spectacular.

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Beef Carpaccio with Fried Shallots, Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

 
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Baby Shrimp and Avocado Cocktail with Marie-Louise Sauce
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Warm Duck Pâté in Puff Pastry with Port Wine Sauce

 

The new menus also include an assortment of Canyon Ranch® Healthy Living Choices that meet the Canyon Ranch standards for balanced nutrition from a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean proteins. The calories, fat grams and fiber grams for each Canyon Ranch selection are included on the menu. If healthy living means eating dishes like this, then I’m becoming a health nut!

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Canyon Ranch Vegetable Caponata on Roasted Red Pepper Dressing with Crispy Sardinian Bread
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Canyon Ranch Wild Salmon Tartare with Sushi Rice and Avocado

 

Having created so many exquisite dishes, does Garanger have a personal favorite?

“My signature dish is my mashed potatoes,” Garanger says. With the new rollout, Franck’s Mashed Potatoes will always be available as a side in the Grand Dining Room, and you really must try them. Absolute heaven!

“The pâté en croute on the new menu is also very close to my heart,” Garanger continues. “This is a recipe from my childhood for the classic dish that the French enjoy around the family table.” Here Franck prepares his Childhood Paté en Croute: French Family-Style Encrusted Paté with Smoked Ham and Pheasant.

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Until you’ve visited the Grand Dining Room, you can only imagine the amazing selection of delectable new dishes to be tasted. And the Grand Dining Room is only one of four gourmet restaurants on Regatta and Nautica and six restaurants on Marina and Riviera! When you reserve your next voyage with Oceania Cruises, I suggest you make it a lengthy one, so you have plenty of time to sample all of the spectacular cuisine!

February 5, 2013

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OCEANIA CRUISES’ FLEET CORPORATE CHEF FRANCK GARANGER

Photo 11Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that esteemed master chef Jacques Pépin is our executive culinary director and the inspiration behind our extraordinary cuisine. But even Chef Pépin knows that it takes more than one person to create a culinary program for a cruise line that can successfully rival the cuisine of even the best restaurants ashore. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of the other culinary team members responsible for creating the finest cuisine at sea.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger might modestly resist the label of “creative genius.” But after tasting the exquisite dishes he has conceived for Oceania Cruises’ ships, I can’t think of a more appropriate moniker.

While many cruise lines employ a single corporate chef, Oceania Cruises has an entire team of culinary directors and executive chefs committed to realizing its culinary vision. Thus Garanger is free to focus his creative genius – there, I said it – on designing recipes that uphold Oceania Cruises’ reputation for the finest cuisine at sea. 

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An example of the finest cuisine at sea: Tamarind-Braised Black Cod with Sweet Ginger Sauce and Vegetable Ragout

While Garanger was born in the Normandy region of France, his family moved to Angers in the Loire Valley when he was two years old. His father owned a bakery, and after being exposed to the culinary world at a very young age, Garanger began working with his father and learning the pastry trade at age 16. One year later he began studies in hospitality and hotel management. French universities are very specialized, and the training involved one week of classes alternating with two weeks of hands-on restaurant experience, at which time Garanger worked with a French master chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Angers.

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Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
After passing his first exams, Garanger worked at one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, followed by the equally renowned Hotel de Cap Eden Roc, a palace on the French Riviera in Antibes. He then returned to school for two years to complete his degrees and after exams, at the age of 24, began officially working as a chef.

His first position on a cruise ship was with Silversea Cruises in 1995. When he was asked to join Oceania Cruises in 2003, he did not hesitate to accept. “I liked the vision they had for the line,” Garanger says. “And I really liked the passion of all the people involved. They were so into food that, in everything we were creating, they were not only behind me but also tasting the food with me. When you have the CEO and the president coming onboard just to taste the food to see if we can put it on the menu, it applies a little pressure, but it is also very rewarding because you can really see how important the food is to the company.”

Much like the passionate commitment of the executives, many aspects of Garanger’s tenure with Oceania Cruises have been both challenging and rewarding. “Regatta was a challenge because we had to start from scratch, and we were working with a ship we didn't build, so we had to make adjustments. We built Marina ourselves, but it was also challenging because we opened eight different restaurants – each a completely different concept – and had 160 cooks onboard to manage. In both cases, there were very high expectations, and we had to deliver in a short period of time. Both debuts were a huge success, and so of course, we’re very happy.”

So what is the secret to continuing to deliver the finest cuisine at sea? For one thing, most members of the culinary team, such as Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Culinary Director Eric Barale and Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur, have been with Oceania Cruises since its very beginnings. And the line’s commitment to cuisine has ensured that the team is provided every tool they need to succeed.

“I’ve always been asked what I needed, and whatever I asked for, I got,” Garanger says. “Of course, then you have to make sure you deliver, and so far, I’ve succeeded. That’s why I’m still here!”

Each restaurant onboard provides its own unique challenges. Jacques is perhaps the most challenging because of the technical precision required to execute true, authentic French recipes using traditional, time-honored methods on a daily basis. Toscana is also technically challenging because of the à la minute preparation of all the fresh pasta and risotto.

Red Ginger is one of Garanger’s favorite concepts because it is truly “his baby.” Garanger traveled in Asia for two years and then spent time in both London and San Francisco researching ideas before developing the restaurant concept and recipes.

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One of Red Ginger’s signature dishes: Miso-Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf

While Jacques and Red Ginger are featured on Oceania Cruises’ newest ships, Marina and Riviera, guests will be excited to know that they can soon get a taste of these restaurants onboard Regatta and Nautica as well. These ships will soon feature an entrée from both Jacques and Red Ginger each night in the Grand Dining Room. The new features are just one small part of Garanger’s latest large scale project, the rollout of new menus for the Grand Dining Rooms on the entire fleet.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Garanger’s insights into the creative process, training and implementation involved in this extensive menu rollout. Check the blog again soon for more behind-the-scenes stories.

February 1, 2013

MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

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Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin
While most cruise lines employ a single corporate chef that oversees the creation, organization and implementation of menus, Oceania Cruises has an entire team at the helm of its culinary program. Of course, renowned master chef Jacques Pépin has been the inspiration for the program since he became executive culinary director when the line was founded 10 years ago. But consistently delivering the finest cuisine at sea requires a large group of dedicated chefs committed to this vision.

“No one person can be in charge of all the food and beverage for a cruise line and do it well,” says Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro. “It’s  creativity, it’s administration, it’s logistics and human resources; it’s sourcing and tracking and training and quality control. And then there’s bread and pastry. From a culinary point of view, that’s like another planet! How could one person do all that?”

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of meeting several members of the culinary team, including Semeraro, who led the team in one of its most ambitious projects to date: the launch of entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. Semeraro has been a key player in the creation of Oceania Cruises’ renowned cuisine since the line’s founding in 2003. In fact, most of the culinary team has been onboard since the company began with a handful of employees a decade ago, which accounts for the family atmosphere amongst the entire team and translates to a warm camaraderie amidst the crew and guests onboard the ships. It truly is a family affair, as several of the original recipes served in the Italian restaurants have come from Semeraro and his wife, Packy, and their mothers.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has certainly found his niche within the team. His sole responsibility is creating innovative new menus that keep Oceania Cruises at the forefront of culinary excellence. Meanwhile, Culinary Director Eric Barale handles the logistics of implementing Garanger’s creations, from purchasing fresh ingredients and acquiring new equipment to assembling the necessary staff and designing menus. Interestingly, Barale used to be Garanger’s teacher at culinary school, and when Garanger was invited to come onboard with Oceania Cruises when the line was founded in 2003, Barale was the first person he called to join him.

“Eric does all the work I don’t like to do,” Garanger says, chuckling. “I am the right brain and he is the left, so it makes a great partnership. When you don’t have to take care of all the logistics and you’re free to just create the recipes, it’s fantastic. It allows me to keep a clear head and to simply create. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day.”

Of course, the right brain and left brain wouldn’t function without a lot of neurons flashing in synchronicity. Several other team members help execute this culinary vision, not to mention the hundreds of chefs and sous chefs working onboard the ships. Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti were both heavily involved in the new menu rollout in the Grand Dining Room. Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin oversaw implementation on Riviera, while Senior Executive Chef Laurent Trias will oversee Marina, and Executive Chef Renald Macouin will oversee Regatta and Nautica

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Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
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Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti

 

If you saw yesterday’s blog, your mouth is probably still watering over the photos I shared that revealed the fruits of the team’s labors. There are so many delicious dishes on the new Grand Dining Room menus that I wanted to share a few more with you today. 

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

 
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Herb-Crusted Cornish Hen alla Diavolo with Bacon and Shoestring Potatoes
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Dorado and Tuna Ceviche with Cilantro and Heirloom Tomatoes

In my next blog post, read my behind-the-scenes interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and learn where he gets his inspiration to create the finest cuisine at sea.

January 31, 2013

OCEANIA CRUISES DEBUTS EXCITING NEW MENUS IN THE GRAND DINING ROOM

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Fresh Sea Bass on Ratatouille Sauce with Chickpea Croutons and Tomato Petals

Oceania Cruises has long held a reputation for cuisine that is not only the finest at sea but also rivals that of the best restaurants ashore. If you’ve dined onboard an Oceania Cruises ship, then you know we take fine dining to an entirely new level. Creating truly exquisite cuisine requires more than just the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. It requires passion, creativity, à la minute preparation and careful attention to detail. 

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Pancetta-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Kalamata Olive Sauce and Vegetable Julienne
Oceania Cruises has further solidified its reputation as the cruise line for foodies by successfully rolling out entirely new menus, including 85 new recipes, for its Grand Dining Room onboard Riviera. The remainder of the fleet will receive the new menus over the course of the next three months.

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, my job has a lot of perks, but in this case I have to say, it involved a bit of torment. For the last few weeks, I’ve been receiving mouthwatering photos of all the fabulous dishes that the chefs have been creating, testing and, most importantly, tasting. I can’t wait to sail again to try all of the new dishes. Your taste buds are about to sit up and take notice.

The new menus for the Grand Dining Room are an ode to classic European-inspired cuisine, while also giving a whole new meaning to dishes such as steak au poivre and moules marinières. The team has taken the execution of classic dishes to a higher level, and the vision of Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has revealed interpretations such as Palermo-Style Grilled Swordfish over Crushed Red Bliss Potatoes with Eggplant Caviar, Traditional French Beef Tartare with Toasted Baguette Wafer, and Grilled Veal Chop with Rustic Tomatoes and Lemon Confit. 

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Moules Marinières: Fresh Black Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley

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

 

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Traditional French Beef Tartare with Toasted Baguette Wafer
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Grilled Veal Chop with Rustic Tomatoes and Lemon Confit

Menus also include three exquisite new lobster dishes, such as the Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crepe with Langoustine Bisque. If, like me, your craving for Italian food is never satiated, you will love the 10 new pastas and risottos that are featured. How about Fettuccine with Wild Sea Bass in Rustic Tomato and Peperoncino Sauce? Or perhaps Rigatoni alle Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata, a delicious dish of rigatoni pasta served with sautéed eggplant in a tomato basil sauce and topped with smoked ricotta?

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Lobster and Spring Vegetable Crepe with Langoustine Bisque
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Rigatoni alle Melanzane e Ricotta Affumicata

 

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Fettuccine with Wild Sea Bass in Rustic Tomato and Peperoncino Sauce

If you prefer a light garlic and wine sauce, you must try the Pasta with Fresh Littleneck Clams and Pinot Grigio Sauce. Risotto lovers shouldn’t miss the Risotto Venere con Gamberoni All’Arrabbiata, a black risotto with a spicy shrimp ragout.

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Pasta with Fresh Littleneck Clams and Pinot Grigio Sauce
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Risotto Venere con Gamberoni All’Arrabbiata

 

Beyond the traditional dishes from countries such as France, Spain and Italy, you will also find European-inspired versions of other classics, such as the American barbecued pork chop and the Japanese crab tempura.

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Sweet Barbecued Pork Chop with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Stuffed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
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Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Roasted Cherry Tomato Aioli

Jacques Pépin has always said that the finest cuisine must start with the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, and Oceania Cruises’ unwavering commitment to this philosophy is evident in all of the new dishes. A new lobster and rice dish is made with saffron from the Castilla–La Mancha region of Spain, known for producing the finest of this priciest of all herbs. Fans of “the other white meat” will find some of the most renowned pork in the world, from roast Segovian suckling pig to jamón Ibérico de bellota, the famous Iberian ham that comes from pigs fed on acorns. 

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Steamed Maine Lobster on Castilla-La Mancha Saffron Rice
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Roast Segovian Suckling Pig with Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Unique international ingredients are also featured, such as the kadaif pasta in the Crispy Kadaif-Wrapped Tiger Prawns with Mango-Chili Salsa.

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Crispy Kadaif-Wrapped Tiger Prawns with Mango-Chili Salsa

There are also delectable new appetizers, such as the Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Velouté and the Quinoa and Vegetable Tartare with Salmon Gravlax and Sherry Vinegar Cream.

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Molten Cheese Soufflé with Chive Velouté
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Quinoa and Vegetable Tartare with Salmon Gravlax and Sherry Vinegar Cream

The salads are exquisite as well. Check out the colorful Roasted Butternut Squash with Arugula, Mango, Black Radish, Hearts of Palm and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette and the work of art known as Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato-Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella. 

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

 

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Zen
Lest you think I’ve forgotten to mention the desserts, I’ve saved the best for last. The year 2013 marks Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, Chef Garanger has created a dessert as extraordinary as this special milestone. Named “Zen”, the dessert begins with a Valrhona 64% cacao Manjari chocolate bar, made from the finest Madagascan cacao beans. That is combined with milky gianduja hazelnut chocolate and citrus yuzu fruit and accompanied by a hazelnut croquant. Now that’s a dessert befitting a celebration of a decade at sea!

If you haven’t already left the blog site to reserve your next Oceania Cruises voyage so you can indulge in these wonderful new dishes, now is the time! But do check back throughout the week for behind-the-scenes stories revealing the secrets to creating such extraordinary cuisine, including an interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger. I’ll also share more mouthwatering photos that will have you wishing you could dine onboard every day of the year!

July 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“You cook with the heart?” Garanger asks.

“Yes.”

“I try to cook with my brain.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, it’s healthy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 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!

May 22, 2012

RIVIERA IN GREECE: Great Local Restaurants & Cooking Tips from Chef Cat Cora

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Continuing on her historic Maiden Voyage, Riviera now explores the storied coasts of Greece. Today Riviera arrived in Santorini, one of several island gems on this aptly entitled Pearls of the Aegean itinerary. Guests were treated to stunning cliffside views of whitewashed villages, iconic blue domes, charming churches and colorful bell towers.

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As Blogger-at-Large, I’ve had the privilege of visiting Santorini on three previous occasions, and I never tire of meandering the cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. Even a completely inept photographer can’t help but capture beautiful shots here. The villages of Fira and Oia seem to burst with charm, color and contrast.

Greece17Anyone who loves Greece knows that the only thing that can compete with the stunning scenery and historic icons is the delicious cuisine. One of my favorite pastimes in Santorini is to sip a local wine and enjoy lunch at one of the delightful cafés perched on the cliffs of Fira, where you can admire the view of Riviera in the bay set against the backdrop of the caldera. Some friends and I dined at a restaurant called Archipelagos where the food was as fantastic as the view. We started with a beautiful Greek salad with Kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onion, cucumber, and fresh tomatoes bursting with flavor.  Greece08

Next were the mezes, which are essentially the Greek counterpart of Spanish tapas. (Or tapas are the Spanish counterpart of Greek mezes, depending on your perspective I suppose.) I have to say that
Europe as a whole has a far greater appreciation for the appetizer than we Americans do. Greece, Turkey, Greece15Spain and other Mediterranean countries often make meals of an assortment of delicious small plates. I’m especially fond of this tradition because it gives me a chance to try everything put in front of me.

There was pita bread with tzatziki made of cucumber, yogurt, garlic and mint, plus stuffed grape leaves, lamb meatballs and one of my favorites – saganaki. While saganaki sounds very exotic, it is actually just fried cheese. But really, what could be better than fried cheese? Besides, this ain’t your average mozzarella stick. Saganaki is made with Kefalotyri, or one of a few other cheeses unique to Greece, all of which have a rich, delicious flavor. The dish is named for the small frying pan in which it is prepared.

Tomorrow Riviera continues her exploration of the Greek Isles with a call in Aghios Nikolaos, Crete – another port where I’ve enjoyed a lovely lunch at a local café with a view of the sea. If you get off the ship and walk along the beach, you’ll find several little restaurants on the opposite side of the bay, one of which is Ofou To Lo. Talk about fresh fish! We chose our own fish from several presented to us right off the boat. After disappearing into the kitchen, Greece12the owner returned with the prepared fish, which strongly resembled the fish in its original form. It was deliciously seasoned and seared, but we soon realized that we’d have to do all of the deboning ourselves.

Luckily, we were up to the task. The fish was so good we picked it clean, and one of my friends even threatened to devour the bones!

We also enjoyed some scrumptious moussaka, a dish not to be missed in Greece. It is popular in Turkey as well, but the Greek version somewhat resembles a lasagna and is made with layers of eggplant, meat and béchamel sauce. Opa!!

Needless to say, guests onboard Riviera are in for a cultural and culinary treat as they continue exploring Greece on the Maiden Voyage. And they even have an expert on Greek cuisine onboard with them. Followers of the blog know that Chef Kelly of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center spends a great deal of time exploring European markets and tasting local cuisine, and she has enjoyed several forays to the markets and restaurants of Greece, including Corfu, Zakynthos and Athens. She teaches guests onboard how to make these fabulous Greek recipes (and many others) in the culinary center. I especially enjoyed her class on Mediterranean fare in which we made grilled lamb and feta cheeseburgers with a Greek salad, plus gazpacho for a touch of Spain. My final dish didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as Chef Kelly’s did, but it sure tasted delicious!

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It is perfectly apropos that Riviera is exploring Greece on her Maiden Voyage, because Chef Kelly and I aren’t the only fans of Greek food that have been onboard. Riviera’s godmother, Chef Cat Cora, is also an aficionado of Greek cuisine, as her grandmother came to the U.S. from the Greek island of Skopelos. Many of Chef Cora’s delicious recipes put a Greek spin on traditional favorites, such as her Greek-style nachos in her latest cookbook, Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist.

Greece A1Chef Cora recently shared some of her culinary history and secrets with guests onboard Riviera during a “Chat with Cat” that was hosted by Cruise Director Leslie Jon. She said that her greatest personal mentors have been her family members, such as her grandmother, godfather, mother and father. “My father was incredible. He could smoke meats and marinate meats and grill meats like nobody else. He taught me all of that growing up, which was wonderful.”

At a very young age, Chef Cora learned Greek cooking techniques from her mother, who taught her how to roll grape leaves and work phyllo dough. The best advice she ever got from her mom? “The only piece that needs to be perfect with phyllo dough is the top piece!”

Another good tip on working with phyllo dough is that you don’t have to clarify the butter. “In fact, if you clarify the butter, you’re taking out the milk fat which adds flavor,” said Cora. “It also helps with the browning and the caramelization of your pastry…so don’t worry about clarifying.”

Chef Cora’s professional mentor, Julia Child, was famous for saying, “You can never have too much butter.” Leslie Jon asked Chef Cora what Greek ingredient she cannot get enough of.

In Cora’s opinion, “You can never have too much garlic. I mean, you probably can…I can think of situations where it’s probably too much, but…as long as the other person also has too much, you’re okay!”

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Chef Cora’s sense of humor and down-to-earth nature were evident as she described the challenges she faced coming up as a young chef in a profession that was largely dominated by men, especially in the French restaurants where she first interned as a sous chef. She credits her success to perseverance and passion. “I always remember hearing Oprah Winfrey say, ‘If you can stay passionate about what you do, the rest will come.’" 

Leslie Jon responded with his own apt quote from George Bernard Shaw, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

“Yes,” Chef Cora smiled, “I think we can all agree with that.”

May 16, 2012

RIVIERA WELCOMES FIRST GUESTS ONBOARD FOR MAIDEN VOYAGE!

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The day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived! The officers, staff and crew were all smiles today as we welcomed our first guests onboard Riviera in Venice. It was my great pleasure to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Kohel as the very first guests for Riviera's Maiden Voyage. The Kohels are our first ever Diamond Oceania Club members and have sailed with us on more than 40 voyages.

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We have done a lot of celebrating over the past two weeks, but nothing gave me greater pleasure than welcoming all of our first guests onboard Riviera. Our guests are the reason we built Riviera, and I am so excited for them to experience this beautiful ship. It was a wonderful day that I will always treasure in my fondest of memories.

May 13, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO RIVIERA: 3 DAYS TO MAIDEN VOYAGE

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Look what I caught!

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

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

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

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

 

April 3, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES SHOWCASES ART AND ARTISTS

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It’s no secret that Oceania Cruises has created the first ships at sea designed especially for foodies. Fine cuisine has always been one of our hallmarks, but did you know that Marina and the new Riviera are also havens for art lovers?

Oceania Cruises’ founder, Frank Del Rio, has a passion for fine art. He and Vice Chairman Bob Binder hand-selected the masterpieces currently featured onboard Marina, and Del Rio took a special interest in the works selected for Riviera as well. In fact, we are anticipating an exciting announcement later this week about the artists to be featured on Riviera, which debuts next month.

Marina Art4Marina and Riviera feature paintings, sculptures and prints to suit every taste, from the classic to the contemporary and from the referential to the abstract. Del Rio claims he wants the art to “spark conversation and contemplation” among the guests onboard. Based on my observations as Blogger-at-Large, he has certainly succeeded in this goal. One evening I was in Martinis lounge onboard Marina discussing a painting that myself and a guest found particularly fascinating. A few minutes later another guest approached the painting and commented, “The guy must have been on drugs when he painted that.” Some works are simply beautiful, and others are more provocative, but they all inspire conversation. 

Many of us who enjoy contemporary artists have an equal passion for creating art ourselves. While our efforts may not be museum worthy, we can certainly appreciate the need to express our creativity. And when traveling on a voyage with Oceania Cruises, the beautiful ships and marvelous ports of call provide ample inspiration for anyone with an inner artist clamoring for recognition.

 

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That is why Oceania Cruises created the Artist Loft enrichment center, currently featured onboard Marina and soon to be unveiled on the new Riviera as well. In the Artist Loft, talented artists-in-residence teach classes on everything from photography to needlepoint to painting to creating your own t-shirts and postcards.

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Award-winning watercolorist Annelein Beukenkamp was just onboard Marina sharing her skills with a packed house of aspiring artists. I was able to enjoy some of Annelein’s classes, such as ABC’s of Drawing and Paint a Tropical Sunset Scene. Marina was sailing her final Caribbean itinerary, so there was no shortage of vibrant tropical sunsets to inspire our paintings.

For the ABC’s of Drawing class, Annelein gathered everyone around to observe as she created a still life drawing of a wine bottle, an apple and a teacup. As she progressed, Annelein pointed out the choices an artist is constantly making regarding position, perspective, light and shading. Guests then created their own masterpieces with Annelein’s guidance. Annelein also offered open studio hours when guests could experiment in any medium they wished – pigments, graphite, pastels, pencils – or they could continue work on a project begun earlier in the voyage.

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It’s hard to say what the guests enjoyed more – expressing themselves in the Artist Loft or gazing at the masterworks throughout Marina that make her feel like a floating museum. Whether you’re an aficionado or an amateur, a cruise onboard Marina or Riviera is a treat for any art lover. Be sure to check our Facebook page later this week for the exciting announcement about the collection to be featured onboard Riviera.

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.

 

March 13, 2012

ACUPUNCTURE MASSAGE IN THE CANYON RANCH SPACLUB

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As Blogger-at-Large, I’ve enjoyed many wonderful travels with Oceania Cruises. Every sailing promises new and exciting experiences, from exploring exotic destinations to tasting delicious wine and cuisine to learning watercolor techniques in the Artist Loft. I embrace every opportunity to see the world and try new things, but I have to admit, I was a bit tentative about the new experience that awaited me in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub yesterday.

For those of you who have tried acupuncture, I’m sure you’re familiar with its benefits. But I had never tried it before, and when the treatment was suggested, I admit I was a little nervous about — well, to call a spade a spade — having needles stuck in my back. This didn’t seem like a service I would request as part of a dream vacation. It seemed more like a procedure I would conjure up in a nightmare after a stressful day at work.

However, part of my role as Blogger-at-Large is to experience everything that Oceania Cruises has to offer and share with you all of the fantastic options available. Neither Oceania Cruises nor the Canyon Ranch SpaClub has ever steered me wrong, so I decided to go for it. The SpaClub offered a treatment that combined acupuncture and massage, and since I had agreed to try the former, I decided I deserved the latter.

I arrived early for my appointment so I could relax on the SpaClub’s Private Spa Terrace and spend some time in the steam room. Once my muscles were warm and loose, I went to the Relaxation Room (pictured below) for some quiet time. Soon Dr. Ashish (pictured above center) arrived to take me to the treatment room.

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Dr. Ashish hailed from India and studied at the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore. He asked if I’d had acupuncture before, and when I replied that I hadn’t, he happily provided me with some history on the practice. Acupuncture originated in China about 5,000 years ago, and it would seem that any health regimen in practice for that long must have significant benefits. While acupuncture is often used to treat chronic pain, I fortunately do not have that problem, but Dr. Ashish informed me that acupuncture has many benefits beyond the treatment of pain. It has also been shown to boost the immune system, relieve tension, reduce anxiety, and promote general well-being.

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture was based around restoring balance to the chi, the life force of energy that flows throughout the body. But as acupuncture evolved and came to be practiced internationally, those who didn’t necessarily subscribe to the concept of chi discovered other physiological explanations for the efficacy of acupuncture. Dr. Ashish explained that the needles stimulate the nerves and send messages to the brain. The needles are interpreted as an attack on the body, so the pituitary gland releases endorphins to combat the threat. Endorphins are secreted in response to stimuli such as exercise, pain and even the consumption of spicy food, and they are responsible for sedation, relaxation, stress and pain management, and an overall sense of well-being.

Dr. Ashish went on to explain how acupuncture can also interrupt pain messages to the brain and with ongoing treatment can help the brain adapt and interpret these messages differently. But by this time I have to admit I was losing focus on the details that Dr. Ashish was sharing. All the signals in the room had indicated to my brain that I was about to receive a relaxing massage – the soft, tranquil music, the low lighting, the warm massage table – and needles or not, my body had decided to relax.

It was about this time that Dr. Ashish touched the top of my head, and a moment later I thought, could that have been a — no, surely not. Dr. Ashish asked, “Did you feel that?” He had already inserted the first needle, and I had barely noticed.

He continued with a few more needles on my back, legs and feet, gently inserting them at the appropriate sensitive points. I felt some more than others, but nothing I felt could be characterized as pain. And when he was finished, I had a very pleasant, warm, fuzzy feeling throughout my body, one I would best describe as a sense of relaxation and overall well-being, just as advertised. I have to admit that having needles stuck in my back (by a well-trained professional) was actually a very pleasant experience and one that I would definitely consider repeating.

Following the acupuncture, Dr. Ashish performed a vigorous full-body massage, and his specialized training was evident as he immediately recognized and addressed all the points where I carry tension. The grand finale was the Revitalizing Foot Treatment. This is one of the enhancements that can be added on to a massage, and I highly recommend it. After a gentle exfoliation, Dr. Ashish administered a focused massage of my feet and toes, followed by an application of peppermint and tea tree foot balm that left my calves and feet pleasantly tingling and highly energized. It was the perfect treatment after a day spent hiking to The Baths and scrambling amongst the boulders on the beautiful beaches of Virgin Gorda.

The only thing I dislike about a great massage is that it must inevitably come to an end. There is always that bittersweet moment as you savor the sense of exquisite relaxation while trying to cope with the fact that the experience is over. I can tell you this is much easier to deal with when you have a fantastic dinner onboard Marina to follow it up. And it wasn’t until I had returned to my stateroom and dressed for dinner that I realized the full benefits of the acupuncture. Unlike other massages that had nearly put me into a coma, this treatment left me feeling revitalized and invigorated. I was relaxed, but also wide awake, refreshed and ready to enjoy a fabulous evening. And best of all, I had another wonderful wellness experience in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub to add to my long list of favorites.

If you have a favorite treatment that you’ve enjoyed in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, please share your experience with us here on the blog. Feel free to leave a comment below.

January 24, 2012

ABHYANGA MASSAGE FROM CANYON RANCH

DSCF0743One of my favorite assignments as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises is experiencing the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® onboard the ships. As work goes, this is not a bad gig. The SpaClub onboard Marina is a relaxing haven and the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring ashore.

A day pass allows you access to the entire spa, or if you’ve booked a spa treatment, you may enjoy the facilities before and after your treatment. Soak in the open-air whirlpool hot tubs on the private Spa Terrace and then recline on a chaise under the rays of the afternoon sun. Or gaze out of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Relaxation Room at the beautiful shoreline of your current port of call and muse about the day’s wonderful adventures. There is also a sauna, a steam room and an experiential shower with Tropical, Cold Fog and Waterfall settings. The various temperatures and pressure levels of each setting are perfect for relaxing muscles in preparation for a massage or after a good workout.

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The SpaClub offers a multitude of services — from manicures to makeovers to fitness classes to seaweed wraps to facials — you name it. If it restores and rejuvenates, you can find it at Canyon Ranch. I personally am always a sucker for a great massage, so I chose to book this traditional spa treatment. However, I was a bit adventurous in selecting a type of massage I had not experienced before.

The abhyanga massage is part of the ancient ayurveda healing tradition, considered to be one of the treasures of India. The helpful young woman who welcomed me to the spa claimed I would feel more “energetic and active” after this “fairly vigorous” massage treatment. For me, the only challenge during a massage has always been to stay awake until the end. So the concept of an energizing, invigorating massage definitely intrigued me.

I did some research before my treatment, and the more I learned about abhyanga massage, the more seeming contradictions I discovered. It both tones and relaxes the muscles. It boosts mental alertness and calms the nerves. It increases body temperature and improves circulation while also allowing for a deeper, more recuperative sleep. I was very eager to experience this massage that sounded like a cure for anything that might ail me.

DSCF0744My massage therapist, Drainah, hailed from Thailand, a country also practiced in the ayurvedic techniques that originated in India. She showed me to the treatment room and let me get situated on the massage table before returning to begin the treatment. The key to abhyanga massage is the warm oil that is used. Drainah told me she was using Bindi oil, designed in the ayurvedic tradition and infused with herbs to nourish the skin and stimulate circulation. Aromatherapy is an important part of abhyanga massage, as the aromas help to heal and balance the body and mind. In the first illustration of the paradox of abhyanga massage, the pleasant scent of the oil was indeed both stimulating and relaxing.

While “fairly vigorous,” the abhyanga massage is not a deep tissue massage. The pressure is firm but gentle. The invigorating effect actually stems from the rhythmic motion of the massage, repeated circular movements on the back and long, smooth repetitive pressure along the legs. Drainah also utilized certain pressure points on my feet and hands to stimulate a deep sense of calm.

As the massage progressed, I began to realize that its benefits were similar to exercise, without all the annoying huffing and puffing. Like exercise, abhyanga massage relieves stress, cleanses the body of toxins, improves circulation and tones the muscles, all of which ultimately recharges and rejuvenates the body while also creating an overwhelming sense of calm, balance and relaxation.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d invented a paradox between two states that were actually quite harmonious — alertness and relaxation. Without launching into a social discourse, I had to acknowledge that I’d bought into the concept that one pounds an energy drink so you can be alert and driven to work hard all day long, in the hopes of crashing into a recliner at the end of the day so you can then “relax.” In actuality, the ideal state of being seems to be something closer to both alert AND relaxed.

At least this was certainly my opinion by the end of the massage. I felt both energized and blissfully tranquil, and at that moment I couldn’t imagine a more pleasant state of being. Nor have I discovered one since.

Practitioners of ayurveda actually recommend a daily abhyanga massage as part of your morning ritual. Don’t I wish! If anyone out there happens to have access to a personal masseuse, I highly recommend following this advice. (You can actually perform the technique yourself, but I somehow doubt my skills would compare to the therapists at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.) For those who can’t enjoy a daily indulgence, I suggest treating yourselves to an abhyanga massage at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on your next voyage with Oceania Cruises!

December 13, 2011

GALA TEA TIME ONBOARD MARINA

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Afternoon tea in Horizons lounge is a time-honored tradition onboard Oceania Cruises' ships. Each day at four o'clock, guests gather for this festive occasion to enjoy various treats and, of course, a nice cup of tea. Lengthier voyages, such as Marina's recent transatlantic cruise, give the onboard pastry chefs a chance to really flex their creative muscles during "Gala Tea Time." For this grand affair the chefs go above and beyond their already impressive display of goodies and elevate the traditional tea time to an expression of artistic inspiration. 

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The centerpiece of the Gala Tea Time is the croquembouche, a regal tower of caramelized puff pastries with delectable fillings.

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But the croquembouche is only the beginning of an array of elegant edibles. There are eclairs, tarts, scones, and even truffles prettily arranged in the shape of the Oceania Cruises logo.

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Not all of the choices are sweet treats. Finger sandwiches, such as smoked salmon with lemon cream cheese on navette or roast beef and gherkins on poulichette, are an essential part of any tea time.

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Some of the creations are simply too beautiful to eat. Ornate sculptures created from spun sugar adorn the sumptuous spreads.

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Over 500 guests enjoyed the Gala Tea Time onboard Marina this week, affirming that afternoon tea is not just for the English anymore!


November 2, 2011

Peaceful Seas and Stunning Sunsets From the Decks of Regatta

Regatta Deck Night - Panama
If you follow this blog, you know that we love to share photos and stories of all the fascinating destinations visited by Oceania Cruises’ ships. While guests are initially drawn to Oceania Cruises due to our intriguing ports of call, they also realize that cruising with us confirms the truth of the adage: The journey is just as important as the destination.

Panama Canal Sunset 1The luxurious amenities and gourmet restaurants onboard our ships certainly contribute to the joy of the journey. But an equally vital part of the onboard experience is the pure pleasure of sailing the open seas and savoring the spectacular vistas from the decks of the ship. One feels an extraordinary sense of peace gazing at distant horizons and cruising over tranquil waters. No other travel experience compares.

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Curtis Hustace is a professional photographer who has taught classes in the Artist Loft onboard Marina and also acted as a guest lecturer onboard Regatta. In the photos shared in this post, he has captured some of the serene moments you can experience onboard. We hope you enjoy these images that remind us of the pure joys of cruising.

 

October 12, 2011

THE MANY WONDERS OF KUSADASI

Insignia, Nautica and Marina have all called at the Turkish port of Kusadasi this month. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I've had the privilege of visiting this marvelous place twice, and I hope to have the chance to return soon to delve even deeper into its many wonders. It is not surprising that Kusadasi is one of the most popular ports of call for Oceania Cruises' ships. 

Kusadasi has become a haven for countless visitors over the past few decades and evolved into a rather cosmopolitan resort. Thousands seek sun, beaches, seafood, and extensive shopping opportunities. Of particular note are the "genuine fake watches" you can find advertised in shops throughout the area. The signs touting these popular souvenirs never fail to give me a chuckle.

Although modern Kusadasi has its charms, you will not want to miss the opportunity to visit nearby Ephesus, one of the most renowned and revered archaeological sites in the world, and learn of its engaging history.

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•   Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, once a major port and commercial city, that grew over time to inhabit upwards of 250,000 people.

•   Ephesus began as a Greek settlement and changed hands over hundreds of years, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Ottomans to the Turks.

•   Ephesus was once a port, but its harbor disappeared over time as years and years of silt from the Cayster River filled the bay and surrounding lowlands, thus removing direct access to the Aegean Sea.

•   Ephesus is the center of many religious temples, artifacts, and historical occurences. It was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Now Ephesus is home to a major working archaeological dig in addition to hosting thousands of visitors each year from around the world. The 30-minute journey from Kusadasi is well worth the opportunity to reach this must-see marvel.

The sea of visitors floods the main path of Ephesus which leads to the imposing Library of Celsus. A closer look at the facade reveals incredible detail and an impressive structure built to honor Tiberius Juluis Celsus Polemaeanus. Kusadasi-Ephesus09
During my excursion to Ephesus, our guide shared that the noblemen would bolt up the steep, marble-covered pathway in their chariots. The trek is a bit challenging for a tourist taking in all the sites, let alone a chariot or a merchant with his wares trying to reach the market. But the streets themselves were actually a work of art. Many of the streets were covered with intricate, colorful ceramic tiles, the remains of which can still be seen today.

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If you do need a moment to sit in order to catch your breath and reflect on the history surrounding you, pay close attention to the seat of your choice. Some choose to relax in the public toilets, which were historically a social place where men would often congregate to conduct business and discuss the events of the day.    Kusadasi-Ephesus08Further down the main street of Ephesus stands the Great Theatre. Carved into the side of a very large hill, the Great Theatre is said to have held up to 44,000 people, who would watch plays, gladiators, and political stump speeches. It was here that St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. In recent years, the Great Theatre has hosted the likes of Elton John, Sting, and the late Luciano Pavarotti. A concert series continues today on a smaller scale to limit any damage to the historic site.

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As our tour came to the end, we were able to observe locals demonstrating what life would have been like had we actually visited in ancient times when Ephesus was a bustling and thriving city.   Kusadasi-Ephesus11 Kusadasi-Ephesus12

As I turned and looked down Harbor Street, I imagined Nautica anchored at the end of the pier where ships would've docked in ancient times when the waters of the Aegean lapped against the shores of this port town.

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While perhaps being the most famous, Ephesus is far from the only fascinating sight in and around Kusadasi. Also of interest are the Isa Bey Mosque, the Basilica of St. John, the House of the Virgin Mary and the charming hillside village of Selcuk.

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A visit to Kusadasi would also not be complete without selecting your fish from the local market and enjoying a delicious lunch of fresh seafood and other local specialties.

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But our experiences with the local culture did not end ashore, as Oceania Cruises had a special surprise awaiting us upon our return to the ship. The KUFAD Folkloric Team of Kusadasi greeted us onboard with a performance by their traditional Turkish dance troupe.

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Woman:ManShould your travels with Oceania Cruises take you to the port of Kusadasi, embrace the chance to experience this marvelous destination. Your adventures both onboard and ashore will most certainly create cherished memories. 

 

August 19, 2011

Stuart Gregor shares experiences onboard Marina

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

Confessions of Cruise Virgin

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

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

Cruising and I are off to a good start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a virgin no more. Thank God.

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

 

August 11, 2011

ARTIST LOFT WELCOMES DAN WELDEN

Dan Welden - Jan 2011
Oceania Cruises and the Artist Loft are proud to welcome master printmaker Dan Welden onboard Marina. The "Tastes of Europe" itinerary sailed last night from London and will conclude on August 26th in Rome. During the cruise, Mr. Welden will be teaching his revolutionary printmaking technique known as the Solarplate method. Marina is the first and only ship in the world to offer instruction in this innovative art form. Guests onboard will have numerous opportunities to meet Mr. Welden and participate in the Artist Loft.


Dan Welden 2 An internationally acclaimed artist, innovator, teacher and author, Mr. Welden brings a unique experience to Marina guests. He is the originator of the Solarplate method of printmaking that uses the sun to develop pieces of art. The process does not use traditional acids or chemicals and is thus a safer and greener method of printmaking that also allows artists more versatility.

The Mediterranean sun is no stranger to Mr. Welden’s printmaking technique. He has taught at the Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy, in addition to conducting workshops throughout the world each year. Prints and paintings from Mr. Welden’s portfolio have been featured in hundreds of exhibitions around the globe, and many pieces have found homes in both public and private collections. In 2001 Mr. Welden and Pauline Muir coauthored “Printmaking in the Sun,” the comprehensive manual to Solarplate methods. 

We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Welden onboard Marina!

 

 

 

June 30, 2011

ADVENTURES IN THE ARTIST LOFT


        

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Novices and experts alike have been enjoying classes in the Artist Loft enrichment center onboard Marina. Whether you’re a budding artist looking to dabble in arts and crafts or an experienced photographer seeking to hone your skills, this exciting venue offers the opportunity to express your creativity under the guidance of professional artists-in-residence.

Anna and DaveHusband and wife duo, David and Anna Smith, spent several weeks teaching classes in the Artist Loft. Frequent world travelers, they’ve visited over 65 countries. They say, “The only reason we come home from our travels is to change our clothes and see our 5 grandchildren.”

David Photography 2David is a professional photographer, travel writer and keynote speaker whose travel images have been published worldwide in magazines, books, websites and newspapers. He is a professional member of the Editorial Photographers Association and past president of the North Shore Photographic Society of West Vancouver, British Columbia, where he resides.

David Photography 1David teaches classes on everything from low-light and nighttime photography to photo editing to the production of travel multimedia shows.

Mola 2Anna has a passion for color and creating new designs from world fabrics gathered in her travels. Her works have been exhibited internationally in art galleries, offices, stores and museums. When not traveling, Anna instructs classes in fabric arts, quilting and photo transfer at art galleries and quilting guilds in West Vancouver. 

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Anna has taught several classes in the Artist Loft, including one on mola design. Mola is an appliqué art form that originated with Kuna women of Panama and Colombia. The panels can be framed as art or made into blouses, pillows or other craft projects.

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Guests especially enjoyed a class in how to make charm dolls.

Charm Dolls 2Charm dolls are said to bring luck and good fortune and to ward off evil and negativity.

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 T-shirt transferring was also a popular class.

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Teacher and student display a lovely finished product.

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Guests who've enjoyed the Artist Loft often gather at the end of the cruise to give awards for each other's artistic endeavors. Guests who create the most popular piece, or who are the most prolific, or whose work best represents the theme of the cruise may receive Big O points that can be redeemed onboard.

Anna David Mykonos
If you have a chance to enjoy a class in the Artist Loft with this fun-loving couple, be sure to take advantage of their expertise. You can enjoy exchanging stories of your world travels as well!