April 10, 2015

Guest Post: Unforgettable Horseback Journey to Salto del Limón

While Riviera recently visited Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic, Joan and Bryan L., outdoor enthusiasts hailing from Minnesota, ventured into the tropical forest of Samaná Peninsula. 1Below, Joan shares their unforgettable experiences during the excursion to the dramatic Salto del Limón waterfall. 

We had read that the Salto del Limón waterfall was beautiful, with a sheer drop of about 120 feet, but we didn’t expect the journey there to become one of our favorite memories from our “Heart of Caribbean” cruise.

Guest Post: Unforgettable Horseback Journey to Salto del LimónMy husband, Bryan, and I had no idea the adventure we were in for when we decided to do the tour, but it was just wonderful. We were going by horseback, so upon arriving at the ranch, we each met our horses and a guide that would accompany us to ensure everything went smoothly. My horse’s name was Ferrari – and fortunately, he did not live up to his name! He was nice and slow, and remarkable steady on the uneven cobbled trails.

2The falls are fairly secluded so the 40-minute or so ride was incredibly picturesque. The trail became quite steep in some places offering beautiful vistas of the surrounding landscape. Our guides pointed out cacao and mango trees, and pineapple plants among all the leafy green plants and palm trees. As Ferrari took me up and down several steep hills, I took in the fresh mountain air and enjoyed the warm sunshine when we passed through clearings. It was a beautiful day and my husband and I appreciated the peacefulness of being in the tropical forest, with only the sounds of birds singing, palms rustling and our horses’ hooves on the cobblestones.

4As the waterfall came into sight, we tethered the horses nearby for a rest, so we could make the steep descent down to the base. As we climbed down, the sound of the crashing falls grew louder, and I felt a welcome, refreshing mist on my face. I understood why it had been described as dramatic – the roar of the rushing water, the visual of the cascades against a sheer drop and the gorgeous aqua pool at the base.

5The pretty blue-green water was all too inviting since the day had become quite humid. By the time we arrived at the foot of the falls, you could feel the mist completely surrounding you. My husband and I were laughing like little kids – so carefree. We both decided to wade in – what an experience, surrounded by such natural beauty after a lovely horseback ride. We splashed around a bit, took some photos and cooled off. Then we made our way back up to the horses, and rested in a tranquil, shaded area and enjoyed ice cold drinks.

The best part was that we still had the ride back to look forward to – in this case, it was both the destination of Salto del Limón and the journey that made it so memorable. 

April 8, 2015

Q & A with our Alaska Voyages Captain: Maksym Melnikov

1“I always had one dream and ambition: to become a sea captain,” Captain Maksym Melnikov recalls. As far back as he can remember, the ocean was a constant in his life. “We often moved from sea port to sea port because my father was a marine engineer.”

Captain Melnikov was born in Rostov-on-Don, in the southern part of Russia. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Zeleniy Mis (Green Point), a small town in northeast Siberia. At just fourteen years of age, Captain Melnikov graduated high school and joined Rostov Marine College in the main land. “It seems that a nomadic lifestyle was kind of my normal routine,” he says. Since then, Captain Melnikov has combined his passion for the ocean and traveling by sailing around the world aboard various types of ships.

Captain Melnikov joined Oceania Cruises in the fall of 2010. He spent most of his professional career sailing on cruise ships and tells us he quickly learned that nothing else could pique his interest.

2What do you love most about being a captain with Oceania Cruises?

It is not one single factor, but rather a combination of various things. Although I’ve been traveling for quite some time, I still love meeting people from different countries and visiting different places. From a professional standpoint, I like the open and friendly relationships among the various departments on board the ships. I must also praise the always approachable and supportive company management. I can proudly say the people, both on board and in the office, are the best. And of course our guests – they are very interesting and nice people.

5Can you share one of your most memorable experiences while traveling to and around Alaska?

It was a couple of years ago… in the early morning, while maneuvering to dock in Skagway, we had to stop everything and hold the ship just 50 meters off the pier for a big whale that suddenly emerged (exactly between the ship and the dock). The whale stayed there for a good half hour until it dived and made its famous tail-wagging exit. Guests did not mind the slight delay in arrival; after all, these unspoiled moments are what we love about Alaska.

7What are your favorite places to visit in Alaska?

All of Alaska is a must-see destination and should be on everybody’s travel wish list. One of my favorite places is Juneau, because I like to go across the bridge and see the entire city from the other side. I like hiking and this is a great place to do so. Another place I love is Skagway. Here you can see a huge rock in the harbor with the names of ships and captains who have visited the area, painted one above the other on the rock’s side. It pleases me to see familiar names of some of my older friends and colleagues.

You mentioned that you’re used to a nomadic lifestyle; where will the ocean take you next?

My next command will be on Insignia (on the World Cruise segment from Shanghai to Sidney from April 11 to May 16). I will then leave Insignia and fly to Vancouver to join Regatta for an Alaska voyage until July 7.

Captain Melnikov looks forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

April 6, 2015

Red Ginger Recipe: Chicken in Red Curry Sauce

Red-ginger-2Since it opened, Red Ginger has become one of the favorite restaurants on board Marina and Riviera. The fresh cuisines of Asia are a wonderful complement to the European menus we feature on board. While many of us are familiar with Asian cuisine, Red Ginger has given us a deeper appreciation for how much the cuisines of Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam, and other Asian countries differ. The restaurant features innovative preparations of authentic recipes from these various traditions.

Some nights you just want something quick and easy – but don’t want to sacrifice flavor. This recipe, inspired by our entrée at Red Ginger, is great comfort food. 

SERVES 2 TO 3

Red-ginger-43 (13½-ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk, unshaken (preferably Aroy-D or Mae Ploy)

3 to 4 tablespoons red curry paste

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch cubes

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 serrano or other medium-heat pepper, julienned

4 lime leaves

1 to 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

5 basil leaves

Open the cans of coconut milk and spoon the thicker layer of milk off the top. Place this thicker milk into a bowl and set aside. You should have approximately 4 cups of thin milk remaining in the cans and 1 cup of thick milk in the bowl.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add ½ cup of the thick milk. When the milk begins to bubble, add the red curry paste, adjusting the amount to your personal taste. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of thick milk and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 more minutes, until the coconut oil starts to separate.

Red-ginger-3Add the chicken pieces. Increase the heat to high and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the peppers and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the thin coconut milk and lime leaves and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 7 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce and taste. Adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Stack the basil leaves, roll them into a cigar, and slice into a chiffonade. Add the basil just before serving.

TIP: Curry is often served over jasmine rice. For a quick and easy meal, use Seeds of Change organic rice packets that take only 90 seconds to cook in the microwave.

April 2, 2015

Q & A with our own Chief Marketing Officer, James Rodriguez

Chief Marketing Officer, James Rodriguez As one of the original team members for Oceania Cruises, James Rodriguez has always had a passion for travel and in particular for the cruise industry. In 1999 he started working at a travel agency, specifically in eCommerce; later he went on to work for Crystal Cruises in the Sales department.  And ever since the start of Oceania Cruises, in 2003, he has worked in Sales and Marketing.

James believes travel truly changes people’s lives for the better. “It opens minds and hearts, and if I can help facilitate that in any small way my work becomes more than just a job.”

As a Chief Marketing Officer for a cruise line, you must sail quite a bit. How many cruises have you been on?

I cannot even remember how many cruises I have been on. I’ve been cruising since 1997 and changed my career (he worked in Human Resources for a consulting business) to work in the cruise industry, because I loved it so much. The only area that I have not cruised in is Asia. That would be my next area of exploration.

What would you say is your favorite region to visit, and why?

My favorite region to cruise would have to be the Greek Isles and the Mediterranean. I was a Theology minor in college, and this area of the world is filled with rich history that really makes the areas I studied come to life.   

As someone who has been on so many cruises, and is so knowledgeable in the Travel Industry, which region would you recommend to someone going on a cruise for the first time?

You have to start in the Mediterranean. This area gives you a taste of Europe from Spain, France and Italy to the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. You really get to see several different cultures all on one cruise, making you fall in love with the whole idea of what a cruise is supposed to be.

Would your recommendation change for someone who is an experienced traveler, like yourself?  

Yes. Once you have been on several cruises and have gotten a taste of those “bucket list” ports, the experienced cruiser starts looking for more exotic locations that they may have never thought of visiting. For example, our British Isles cruises offer exotic stops in Greenland and Iceland. You also don’t want to miss the exotic locations we take you to on one of our Asia cruises, such as Myanmar or Mumbai. Unlike first timers, who want to see as many ports as possible in one cruise, the experienced cruiser knows the hidden secret of a cruise vacation - days at sea. If you have taken several cruises, you know just how peaceful a full day at sea can be. It nourishes your soul and rejuvenates your passion for travel.

In your opinion, what do you think are the benefits and/or highlights of cruising in the spring time?

Spring affords travelers the ability to visit certain ports before high travel season kicks in. This means less lines and the ability to experience everyday normal life in many ports. This gives you a deeper sense of culture and flavors of each region. 

So when is your next cruise, and where will you go?

I am taking my kids for the first time to the Mediterranean this summer. It will be a special trip for me, because, as I said before, I believe travel opens people’s heart and mind. I am excited to see how this experience expands my children’s view of the world they live in.  

March 24, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Songs of the Sea

Songssea1Terry Bishop, a frequent guest lecturer with Oceania Cruises and man of many worlds, has had a lifelong love affair with global history and discovery which has taken him on adventures around the world. He now lives with his wife Julie in Andalusia, Spain, and often serves as guide in the nearby Sierras de Tejeda. Also an accomplished folk musician and entertainer, Terry looks forward to sharing his many passions with you during his upcoming lectures and performances during our Polynesian Treasures voyage aboard Insignia this June. Below, he shares a sneak preview of his “Songs of the Sea” presentation: stories and songs about the great sailors – Nelson, Cook, Bligh and Franklin – at work, rest and war. As he says, it’s less of a lecture, and more of a show!

Anchors aweigh, anchors aweigh,

Away, away,

We’ll sail the ocean blue.

This could be the theme song of many a ‘cruiser’ as they set off on another, or maybe their first, trip with Oceania Cruises. But the sailors who sang this type of song were not going to enjoy the benefits of 21st-century travel – with its personalized service, luxury accommodations and little to worry about except what and how much to pack! That sailors in their very basic wooden-walled square riggers could find the enthusiasm to create songs and make music is in itself a wonder.  “Anchors Aweigh” heralds the departure of that great explorer Captain James Cook, heading for the South Sea:

We’ll sail Endeavour southwards and sniff the tropic air

We’ll sail her to Tahiti and coral islands fair

And he would take with him his trusty crew, the men who knew the hard life back home, a life centered on survival, alcohol and women! 

As I was a walking up London, from Wapping to the Ratcliffe Highway

I chanced to pop into a gin-shop, to spend a long night and a day

And invariably trouble would result and then turned into a song to sing during the rare periods of free time on a ship heading who-knows-where, with no promise of a happy return.

Songsea2

Meanwhile, Admiral Lord Nelson battled his way to public recognition through his brilliant victories at the Nile, Copenhagen and finally to his tragic triumph at Trafalgar:

But my love was slain with Nelson, all on that very day,

At the cost of life and limb to many a loyal sailor:

But now he’s got no legs at all, for he ran a race with a cannon ball

And then, John Franklin took two vessels to explore the Northwest Passage in 1845. He lost his ships, his crew and his life, rued by his loyal wife Jane: 

Ten thousand pounds would I freely give, to see my Lord Franklin again

Shanties, gigs and reels would keep the crews exercised through many a dark day and create stories that live to this day. One time pop idol, David Essex created the musical Mutiny that closes with the Bounty’s Fletcher Christian’s melancholic air:

 I’ll go no more a-roving.

Whaling, warfare, trade and exploration were all part of the musical world of seafarers, with an optimistic view of their final resting place. 

And I’ll see you one day in Fiddlers Green!

Join Terry this June aboard Insignia for what is certain to be an engaging and entertaining show! 

March 20, 2015

Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia

Home to a legacy of ancient civilizations, a rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes, Asia features over 200 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From architectural wonders to spectacular natural treasures, our voyages take you to some of the most legendary and impressive sights in this unique region. Discover some of our favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia that you can visit in 2015!

The Great WallThe Great Wall (available from Shanghai):
Truly amazing in its scope, the Great Wall of China stretches over 5,500 miles east to west across northern China. A stunning engineering marvel and a feat of human ingenuity, it carves a massive serpentine path along the crests of craggy mountainous terrain. The wall once formed a remarkable defense system against invasions from the north, and today offers astonishing views of the surrounding landscape. Walk along a preserved section of the wall, and take in awe-inspiring mountain vistas.

Angkor Wat ExperienceAngkor Wat Experience (available from Bangkok):                              

The spectacular temples of Angkor are spread throughout the jungles around Cambodia’s Siem Reap. The crowning masterpiece is the enormous, pyramid-shaped Angkor Wat, which bears numerous beautifully executed bas-relief carvings. Obscured by dense vegetation for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that scholars began to unravel some of Angkor’s mysteries. Explore the intriguing temples throughout Angkor and enjoy a memorable sunset in this magnificent setting.

Ha Long Bay: Mythical Dragon’s BayHa Long Bay: Mythical Dragon’s Bay (available from Hanoi):

Named for a mythical dragon that defended the Vietnamese against invasion, Ha Long Bay is a scenic marvel of nearly 2,000 picturesque islands and precipitous limestone karsts that rise from the sea. The region is also home to rare and endemic flora and fauna species. According to legend, a family of dragons created this spectacle by spitting out jewels that turned into the islands dotting the bay, so as to protect against seafaring invaders. In a traditional junk, cruise among the magnificent limestone pillars, sheer cliffs and tranquil coves.

Taj MahalTaj Mahal (available from Mumbai):
Considered to be the finest example of Mughal architecture, Agra’s fabled Taj Mahal is a glistening mass of white marble and semi-precious stones set amid impeccably landscaped grounds. A monument of love built by the Mughal emperor in memory of his favorite wife, the glistening white marble Taj Mahal is a stunning masterpiece of Muslim art of truly massive proportions. One of the most renowned structures in the world, Agra’s fabled Taj Mahal will awe your senses and leave you with unforgettable memories.


Ancient Temples of BaganAncient Temples of Bagan (available from Rangoon):  

While not on the official UNESCO World Heritage Site list yet, we’ve included the ancient temples of Bagan since they are on the tentative UNESCO list – and visiting Bagan makes for a truly unparalleled travel experience. It is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia and an astounding architectural marvel. Home to more than 2,000 religious shrines, you will be awed by the details of each masterpiece. Visit the Ananda Temple, the Gubyaukgyi Temple and the Dhammayangyi Temple, the most massive in Bagan. A walk amongst the well-preserved temples and vast ruins is an experience of a lifetime.

March 11, 2015

Discover the History and Grandeur of Scandinavia & Russia

Baltic1The Baltic region has many faces, and you will find new joys and unexpected delights in each one. The romance of Copenhagen is found in not only its meandering canals but also its centuries-old palaces, including the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a grand castle just north of the city. Riga’s reputation may be intertwined with that of the former Soviet Union, but as a historic Latvian city, it has become one of Northern Europe’s crown jewels.

Baltic3Even the most passionate art lover is astonished to discover a collection that is truly transcendent. With millions of pieces spanning both millennia and continents, St. Petersburg’s Hermitage can be described no other way. The low afternoon light reflecting off the gilt outline of an ornate chandelier is just as mesmerizing as the brilliant works of Rembrandt, Renoir and Monet hanging on the walls. History buffs will be astounded at how Scandinavia seems to manipulate the passage of time.

Baltic2In venerable Stockholm, the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan takes place just as it has for generations. The dramatic orchestral crescendos during a Russian ballet bring time to a standstill. As your fingertips touch the hard concrete of a preserved section of the Berlin Wall, it might seem as if all the stories of the Cold War come to life.

Some of the most pleasant surprises in Scandinavia cannot be experienced with your eyes, such as caviar and vodka at a café on Senate Square in Helsinki. The sounds of folk music on the streets in Gdansk or the scent of blue cornflowers in the gardens of a Baroque palace in Tallinn are unexpected moments that seem as if they were created only for you. A voyage with Oceania Cruises lets you discover all of the Baltic’s hidden treasures, because Scandinavia is best explored by the sea as the Vikings once did.

March 9, 2015

On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

While Riviera was docked in Taormina (Sicily), Italy, Blair and Titus S., avid cruisers and wine connoisseurs from Georgia, discovered striking Mount Etna and the Vineyards of San Michele Estate.

On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red WineOne thing we love about cruising is taking an ordinary day and turning it into something perfectly extraordinary.

That’s what happened on our Enchanting Riviera voyage from Athens to Monte Carlo last fall. I remember it was a Sunday. We were sitting next to a window at the San Michele Estate, enjoying course after course of delicious traditional Sicilian cuisine paired with an exquisite bottle of Pinot Noir. The Sicilian coast was to our left, Mount Etna straight ahead and a vast sea of bountiful vineyards surrounded us; I couldn’t help but wish for this to be my lunch view every day.  

The Sunday began with exploring Crateri Silvestri on top of glorious Mount Etna on a cool fall morning. At more than 10,000 feet, Mount Etna is the tallest of Italy’s mountains south of the Alps. There were so many cones, craters and lava streams our tour guide showed us. Pictures just can’t do the excursion justice, though we took many. For us, it was exciting to just walk around a stratovolcano together—something extraordinary that we've never done before.

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

After exploring, we drove to San Michele Estate for a wonderful tour of one of our favorite wineries. We learned how Mount Etna’s soil helps make it a great region for wine production because it’s rich in potassium and mineral salts. We watched wine bottle labels being produced, which was also interesting as I never realized the bottle labels were made at the winery. Of course the best part of touring any winery is the opportunity to sample different varietals produced in the vineyard. We tasted at least five different wines and were not disappointed— I loved the Cabernet Sauvignon Murgo   

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

     On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine  On Top of Italy with a Glass of Red Wine

We took home two bottles of wine from San Michele on that Sunday, though I wish there was a way to also take that incomparable lunch view back to Georgia. One thing is for sure, we’re looking forward to turning ordinary days into extraordinary ones on our next voyage! 

March 6, 2015

Saxman Native Village: History through Totem Poles

Books tell a story, carvings on a wall tell a story, and in Saxman Native Village in Ketchikan, Alaska, totem poles tell a story documented by the early Native Americans.  

Saxman Native Village: History through Totem PolesThough totem poles  are  prevalent  throughout southwest Alaska, Saxman Native Village is known for having the largest collection of standing totem poles. These were first created by local Native Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian artists (the three main indigenous groups in the Ketchikan Indian Community), who brilliantly carved symbols into red cedar logs from the Tongass Rainforest. 

Those symbols illustrated on the totem poles included  animals and mythological creatures that were believed to have spiritual significance. They watch over the families, clans and tribes of those who observe the belief of Totemism.  The symbols  represent clans, with the two most prominent clans belonging to the eagle and raven.  While the raven is represented by a straight beak, the eagle has a curved one. 

Saxman Native Village: History through Totem PolesEagle and Raven Symbolism

Eagle: The eagle is seen as an intelligent and resourceful animal. Many believe the eagle to be the  ruler of the sky because it can  soar higher than other birds. Their feathers are even considered sacred among many tribes. The eagle is seen as a divine spirit, representing  sacrifice, intelligence, renewal, courage, illumination of spirit, healing, creation, freedom, and risk-taking. The eagle is a powerful symbol of prestige, and also denotes peace and friendship. Many ancient tribes also believed the bird could transform into a human. 

Raven: Despite being perceived as corrupt and hungry, the raven is one of the most commonly used symbols in Alaska, and is the subject of more than 90 stories carved on totem poles. One of which explains the origins of the sun and moon. The Tlingit tradition tells how, long ago, the world was covered in darkness:  

Saxman Native Village: History through Totem Poles“Raven grew tired of stumbling around and went in search of light. As he came near the house of an old chief, he overheard the chief talking with his daughter. Raven learned that the chief kept all the light of the world locked away in a box.” This is when Raven planned to steal that box.  He transformed himself into a hemlock needle and landed in the river. It was then when the chief’s daughter unknowingly drank him and became pregnant. She later gave birth to a son — Raven’s human form.

The chief loved his new grandson and would have done anything for him. One day, Raven saw the box and begged to play with it. The chief refused, but as any kid would do, he cried, screamed, and even threw tantrums.  Eventually, the chief gave him the box, even though it was the one thing he did not want to share.

Raven instantly changed back to his bird form, carried the box through the  smoke hole inside the house, and placed the light in the sky as the sun, the moon and the stars. 

Experience Ketchikan

Explore the rich living culture of southeast Alaska's Native Americans, where more than a sixth of the city’s population is Alaskan native or American Indian.

Discover all about Ketchikan’s fascinating totem pole history on Regatta’s Majesty of Alaska voyage, or one of our other exciting Alaska voyages this summer. 

Saxman Native Village: History through Totem Poles Alaska9 Saxman Native Village: History through Totem Poles Saxman Native Village: History through Totem Poles

March 3, 2015

Introducing Our 2016 Summer Collection: Exclusive Launch Offer, Exciting Itineraries & New Ports

We’re very excited to announce that reservations for our 2016 Summer Collection have officially opened today. This is one of our biggest launches ever with the addition of Sirena, our newest addition to the Oceania Cruises family, along with our most diverse array of itineraries yet. We have just unveiled 119 voyages, 88 unique new itineraries and the 20 fantastic new ports of call below – the most in our history.

Triestre, Italy
Triestre, Italy
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Alcudia (Mallorca), Spain

La Paz, Mexico

Bandol, France

Manzanillo, Mexico

Catalina Island, California

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Crotone (Calabria), Italy

Piombino (Tuscany), Italy

Ensenada, Mexico

Porto Santo Stefano, Italy

Gaeta, Italy

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Gaspé, Quebec

Skagen, Denmark

Golfito, Costa Rica

Trieste, Italy

Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec

Karlskrona, Sweden

Helsingborg, Sweden

Vlissingen, Netherlands

Gaspé, Quebec
Gaspé, Quebec
La Paz, Mexico
La Paz, Mexico

In addition to the finest cuisine at sea, extraordinary personalized service and all of the signatures of our voyages you have come to know and cherish, we are pleased to offer our most generous savings ever with a valuable EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH OFFER*. For 2016 summer bookings made by June 30, 2015, take advantage of limited-time, never-before-offered savings:

Helsingborg, Sweden
Helsingborg, Sweden

EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH OFFER*

  • Up to $1,000 Additional Savings Off the Early Booking Fare
  • Lowest Price Guarantee
  • 50% Off Deposits

All of this is in addition to our special 2 for 1 Cruise Fares, Free Airfare* and Early Booking Savings. 

Be one of the first to reserve the suite or stateroom of your choice – plan your dream vacation today! Reservations have already opened and with this limited-time offer, space on these fascinating voyages will fill quickly. Call Oceania Cruises at 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642), visit OceaniaCruises.com or contact your Travel Agent to book your spectacular journey.

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

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 *Offers expire 6/30/15. All fares are per person in U.S. dollars, valid for residents of United States and Canada, based on double occupancy (unless otherwise noted), for new bookings only and may be withdrawn at any time. 50% Off Deposits apply to voyages that are not within final payment. Launch Offer Savings up to $1,000 are per stateroom. Lowest price guarantee is limited to this launch offer in U.S. dollars. Free Internet is one per stateroom and applies to Concierge Level Staterooms and higher. Concierge Level Staterooms and Penthouse Suites receive between 200 and 500 minutes of usage, or equivalent data amount, depending on length of voyage. Owner’s, Vista and Oceania Suites receive unlimited usage. Visit OceaniaCruises.com/Internet for more details. Not all promotions are combinable. 2 for 1 and Early Booking Savings are based on published Full Brochure Fares; such fares may not have resulted in actual sales in all cabin categories and do not include optional charges as detailed in the Guest Ticket Contract, which may be viewed, along with additional terms, at OceaniaCruises.com. “Free Airfare” promotion does not include ground transfers and applies to coach, roundtrip flights only from the following airports: ATL, BOS, CLT, DCA, DEN, DFW, DTW, EWR, HNL, IAH, IAD, JFK, LAX, LGA, MCO, MDW, MIA, ORD, PHL, PHX, SAN, SAV, SEA, SFO, TPA, YOW, YUL, YVR, YYZ. Oceania Cruises reserves the right to assign gateways based on availability for JFK, LGA and MIA. Airfare is available from all other U.S. and Canadian gateways for an additional charge. Any advertised fares that include the “Free Airfare” promotion include all airline fees, surcharges and government taxes. Airline-imposed personal charges such as baggage fees may apply. For details visit exploreflightfees.com. Ships’ Registry: Marshall Islands.

February 25, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Legacy of Art & History in Renaissance Florence

Florence1Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world, and it’s not hard to see why.  Where else can you find an overwhelming concentration of historical sites combined with perfect weather, dazzling beaches, dramatic geography, and spectacular cuisine all set in a chic cosmopolitan culture?  Yet for all of these advantages, Italy is endowed with something that sets the country apart from all others - the gift of renaissance art.  It changed the world and it might change you as well.  There is no better place on earth to experience this than in Florence. 

Florence5Viewing art in Florence can be so impressive, the effects have actually made history.  On a trip to Florence in 1817, a French author named Stendhal was seized with palpitations of the heart and dizziness while visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce.  The alleged cause was attributed to being utterly overwhelmed by Renaissance art.  This has been dubbed the Stendhal Syndrome, or ‘Tourist Disease’ and has reportedly afflicted hundreds of visitors to this magnificent city. 

I can’t say that I have ever fainted or hallucinated in Florence but the city’s intensely rich legacy of art and history has at the very least sent shivers down my spine.  When Florence was emerging as a 15th century commercial powerhouse, an upstart class of nouveau riche led by the House of Medici tried to outdo each other in decorating and glorifying the city with civic art.  The results have been spectacular as artists, sculptors and architects have turned the Centro Storica, or Historic Center into what might be the greatest open air museum on earth. 

Florence3The best way to introduce oneself to Florence is to visit Brunelleschi’s graceful Duomo which is the landmark architectural symbol of the city.  Built with no scaffolding in the 1420s, I am never sure whether it is the beauty, balance and symmetry of the dome or the 358 winding steps to the top that takes my breath away, but suffice to say the experience never fails to stimulate all my senses.  The panoramic view of the red-tiled roofs, the meandering Arno River and the Tuscan countryside is itself a work of art.

The thing that amazes me most about Florence is how the Western imagination has been ignited by the remarkable number of cultural pioneers who have lived here.  The list is staggering, from Dante the poet to artists like Giotto and Botticelli.  The cartographer Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to America hailed from Florence along with the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci.  If you are seeking the epicenter of the Florentine talent pool, look no further than the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Stendhal himself was afflicted with the ‘Tourist Disease’.  The sixteen chapels festooned with glorious renaissance frescos might be enough to make you feel faint, but it is the pantheon of giants whose tombs are housed in the nave that make me weak at the knees. Niccolo Machiavelli, the dark knight of political thought who coined the phrase ‘the ends justifies the means’ is entombed here. You will find Galileo, one of the greatest scientists and astronomers in history resting at peace.  However, it is the tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti that inspires me like none other. 

Florence2One cannot help but be awestruck by Michelangelo’s genius when gazing upon the David, the Sistine Chapel or the Pieta.  Yet I found myself even more moved when standing in the shadow of his tomb attempting to absorb a small measure of his greatness. If I am ever to experience Stendhal Syndrome, it is here. 

Italy is a country that should be seen. More than that, it should be felt. Just be careful when viewing the art.

Brian Unger is a historian and educator who shares his passion for art, culture and history as a guest lecturer on Oceania Cruises. Brian will be aboard Riviera’s Artistic Discoveries voyage this July for a spectacular Mediterranean journey that will include a visit to fabulous Florence. You should be able to find him at the Basilica of Santa Croce.

February 23, 2015

A Taste of South African Wines

A Taste of South African WinesWith over 350 years of viticulture tradition, South Africa has recently been experiencing a true wine growing renaissance, attracting attention from international winemakers and experts, along with those who simply love great wine. Some of the most notable regions include Stellenbosch, Paarl, Constantia and Walker Bay. The country’s best wines tend to be distinguished by their fusion of old-world heritage and cutting edge techniques.

Below our Executive Cellar Master highlights two of our favorite South African wines served on board.

Southern Right, Walker Bay, South Africa

Southern Right is a second label started by winery owner Anthony Hamilton Russel in 1994. Russel, the longtime proprietor of Hamilton Russel Vineyards, searched for 10 years to find the right place to found his winery, and settled on what is now the most southerly vineyard site in South Africa.

A Taste of South African WinesWine Profile: 97 % Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Semillon 13% ABV

Wine Maker’s Tasting Notes: Mouthwatering with lots of lemon zest, chive, gooseberry and flint notes, backed by an extra twinge of fleur de sel. Focused, pure and delicious.

Served Best With: dill poached salmon, seafood

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, South Africa

Hamilton Russell was the first wine estate planted in Walker Bay, founded by Tim Hamilton Russell in 1975 and since that time has carved out a reputation for producing wines that straddle the old and new worlds. Only two varieties are grown: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

A Taste of South African WinesProduction: 10 months (1st fill 31%, 2nd fill 35%, 3rd fill 34%), Wooding: 100%, 228 litre French Oak Barrels

Wine Profile: 100% Pinot Noir 13.5% ABV

Wine Maker’s Tasting Notes: Not overtly fruity; soft and “sweet” and generally shows hints of that alluring savoury “primal” character along with a dark, spicy, complex fruit perfume.

Served Best With: smothered filet mignon, turkey, porcini mushroom soup

Cheers from Oceania Cruises!

February 18, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015: Year of the Goat

Chinese New Year 2015: Year of the GoatChinese New Year, celebrated with red paper lanterns, dancing dragons, fireworks and other colorful festivities, is widely considered the most important holiday in China and for Chinese people throughout the world. This year, Chinese New Year begins on February 19. It is one of the oldest festivals, a celebration with more than 4,000 years of history. The holiday is always linked to one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals; this year is the Year of the Goat (also referred to as the Year of the Sheep or Ram).

Festive Celebrations & Lucky Traditions
Chinese New Year is a lively holiday marked by a wide range of traditions including family feasts, colorful parades and more in order to bring about wealth, good health and fortune in the New Year. In preparation, many thoroughly clean their homes– it’s considered bad luck to clean on the first two days of the year, for fear of “sweeping away” good luck. Homes and city streets are decked with red paper lanterns, paper-cut decorations, scrolls and New Year pictures. Red is the main color for the festival, and since it’s the Year of the Goat, images of goats are also popular.

Chinese New Year 2015: Year of the GoatChinese New Year is considered a time to reunite, so families gather together for big reunion dinners. Fish, a symbol of wealth in China, is a classic at Chinese New Year gatherings. (In fact, the Chinese word for fish, 鱼 yú /yoo/, even sounds like the Chinese word for surplus, 余 yú). Dumplings are also popular since their shape represents silver ingots—a type of ancient Chinese money. Another popular tradition is to give money enclosed  in red envelopes as gifts to children and those who are retired. Firework displays and vibrant parades featuring dancing dragon and lions fill the streets, and many go to temples to pray.

Chinese New Year 2015: Year of the GoatThough the biggest celebrations are in mainland China, other countries with a large Chinese population also hold widespread celebrations, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Similar festivities take place in Chinatowns in cities throughout the world.

What Does the Year of the Goat Mean?
The goat is linked to peace, home and stability, so many say the Year of the Goat will bring about a calmer and more secure year ahead. The goat is also associated with art and artistic abilities, so this could mean greater success for those who are creative, contemplative and innovative. It seems the Chinese New Year will be all about the steady path, creativity and keeping the peace!

Happy Chinese New Year from Oceania Cruises!

February 16, 2015

Expert Photo Tips for Tours and Shore Excursions

Lisa, a tour guide with StepIntoFlorence
Lisa, a tour guide with StepIntoFlorence
(David Smith)

Who doesn’t wish they could better capture the colorful and unique moments of their travels?  David Smith, a world travel & fine art photographer from Vancouver, will join Insignia as a photo coach on several segments of the Around the World in 180 Days voyage. His recent publications include the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Geo Saison Magazine and USA Today Travel Online. Below, he and his wife, Anna, share simple and effective tips for taking better photos on shore excursions.

As frequent guest lecturers and invited escorts on shore excursions with Oceania Cruises, Anna and I have toured extensively throughout the Mediterranean, Baltic, Atlantic, Caribbean, South America, South East Asia, South Pacific, and Australia and New Zealand. Many guided tours and shore excursions provide excellent travel photography opportunities that are frequently missed. The travel photos in this post help illustrate some of the following suggestions for taking better travel images while on tour.

1. Research your tour itinerary by reading the detailed tour descriptions and attend shore excursion presentations on board to learn planned visit locations in advance to help prepare your photography strategy and a shot list. Local tour operators can move you around quickly so always have your camera ready for those one in a lifetime photo opportunities. Practice your camera techniques before touring to avoid fumbling with your camera on site.

Scenes and activities at St. Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia,near St. Petersburg
Scenes and activities at St. Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia,
near St. Petersburg (David Smith)

2. Locate yourself for uncluttered shots. If there is live entertainment or a cultural demonstration sit in the front or side of the audience to get unfettered action images. Consider walking about during the show to get different angles and distances from the action. All entertainers and presenters are willing to have their photographs taken. You paid for the tour and presenters are paid by the tour operator as well, so get your cameras out and ask. Be sure to capture locals in ethnic dress.

Tour guide Nina Kazarina in front of an Oceania Cruise tour bus in St. Petersburg, Russia
Tour guide Nina Kazarina in front of an Oceania Cruise tour bus in
St. Petersburg, Russia (David Smith)

3. Create a photo story of the tour to create more interest when you share your photography later. Capture your guide, the sign on the front of the bus, flags, icons and symbols as well as the typical shots. Get establishing shots (the most common type), medium range shots and close-ups to keep interest.

A shore excursion tour of the newly opened Titanic Belfast Museum
A shore excursion tour of the newly opened Titanic Belfast Museum 
(David Smith)

4. When you come across an excellent tour guide or fabulous entertainers a tip is always appreciated and use that opportunity to get portraits of your guide and hosts with and without your travelling companions and be sure to hand your camera to someone to get yourself included in the fun and excitement of your tour photo story. Exchange contact information, be Facebook friends and send your photos to your new friends. Revisiting those magical ports of call and having new friends waiting for you makes travelling with your camera a must while on shore excursions and tours.

David looks forward to meeting many of you aboard Insignia very soon! For more photo tips, visit David’s blog. Also explore more of his stunning photography on his World image archive, along with his fine art gallery.

February 13, 2015

A Romantic Evening in Privée

Abigail and Richard T., New York City natives, recently sailed aboard Marina to celebrate a major milestone in their marriage: 30 years of love!  Abigail writes about her private party in our most exclusive onboard dining venue:  Privée.

Privee1Of all the phenomenal dining experiences my husband and I had aboard Marina, the most romantic one was our evening in the very elegant Privée.

We sailed from Lisbon to Rome, Tapestry of Cultures, in the fall to celebrate 30 years of marital bliss— an anniversary gift from our three children who insisted we enjoy a two week getaway to the Mediterranean. I kept the bar high, as I expected the breathtaking destinations, exemplary staff and fine cuisine, but in Privée, we were treated like royalty.

Cosimo, our maitre’d for the evening, greeted us in front of Toscana. He welcomed Richard and I by our names and immediately congratulated us on our anniversary. As with every member of the staff, Cosimo provided a sense of familiarity and comfort as he led us to our special dinner. 

For those who don’t know, Privée is tucked away between Polo Grill and Toscana. As soon as you enter, you have to give yourself a second to catch your breath. Beautiful artwork hung on the wall, the red colors contrasting perfectly with the all-white room. Above the grandiose table (which I recently learned was designed by Dakota Jackson!) hung a stunning gold chandelier.  Spain’s illuminated twilight sky was visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows. I remember thinking, wow, this is where we are having dinner tonight? The feeling of intimacy was a far cry from the busy restaurants we were used to in Manhattan.

  Privee3  Privee2

Richard’s plate setting was adorned with a bowtie, while I received a “diamond” ring. Our sommelier started us off with glasses of champagne, and recommended a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon for my husband and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc for me. We ordered from both Polo Grill and Toscana and watched Spain disappear into the distance as we continued dinner. Cosimo was attentive, but left us to enjoy our private dinner with a gorgeous view.  As requested by my youngest daughter, we took pictures of our food to send the kids:

Privee5  Privee4

Privee6  Privee7

In the first 30 years of our marriage, we thought a romantic dinner was a candlelit meal in a crowded restaurant. In the next 30 years of our marriage, we’re looking forward to returning to Privée often, and enjoying an intimate dinner with a first-class view of the ocean under moonlight. Now that’s romantic! 

February 10, 2015

Island-Roasted Caribbean Nuts

Spiced-nuts{ MAKES 4 CUPS }

These nuts go exceptionally well with the cold, fruity drinks of the Caribbean. The spice blend can be used on fish and meat on the grill. Make a large batch and enjoy a taste of the Caribbean for the rest of the winter! 

1 cup pepitas

1 cup walnuts

1 cup almonds

1 cup pecans

1 egg white

1 clove garlic, minced

1½ tablespoons Spice Blend (see recipe below)

½  tablespoon sugar

¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on baking sheets and bake, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Be careful not to over toast the nuts, or else they will turn bitter.

While the nuts are toasting, whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the hot nuts into the bowl and stir well to coat.

Decrease the oven temperature to 375°F. Return the nuts to the baking sheets and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until golden, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the sheet pan. 

Allow the nuts to cool and then store in airtight containers.

Spice Blend

5 coriander seeds

2 star anise pods

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

1 teaspoon white peppercorns

1 teaspoon red peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 whole cloves

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and toast, stirring constantly, until the aromas are released. Working in batches if necessary, place the spices in a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

February 9, 2015

Chef Kelly: Culinary Discoveries in the Caribbean, Part 1

Chef Noelle Barille, leading a Culinary Discovery Tour in St. Lucia
Chef Noelle Barille, leading a Culinary Discovery Tour in St. Lucia

While I am enjoying sitting by the fire and watching my one-week-old granddaughter sleep, my Culinary Institute of America colleague, Chef Noelle Barille, is teaching on The Culinary Center aboard Riviera.  

The Caribbean is a ‘bucket list’ destination for ‘foodies’ and one with a rich culinary heritage of influences from Africa, Spain, England, France and of course, the native islands themselves.  What intrigues me about the Caribbean is how the home cooks here have married spices, fish, meats and produce used to create this vibrant cuisine.  This is a ‘slow’ cuisine with a small global footprint, making it a paradise for those with a reverence for ‘unfussy’ food with personality!

This season, Chef Noelle is leading three culinary tours in St. Lucia, Tortola and Antigua.  I wanted to share them with you, along with some of our favorite Caribbean recipes for you to try at home (and as you cook be thinking of your next cruise with us!)

The Spices Cooking Studio
The Spices Cooking Studio

New for us in 2015 is a day at ‘The Spices Cooking Studio’ in St. Lucia. Limited to 10 guests, this tour is an intimate immersion into the spices that make these islands such a culinary treasure chest.  The group was greeted by our host, Jenni Killam who has travelled and studied Caribbean cooking for over 30 years.

Tour through an abundant herb garden

Guests toured an abundant herb garden, featuring unique herbs like chadon beni

Jenni and her team explained that today they would be ‘cooking lime’ which is a Caribbean term for hanging out with friends, preparing a meal and sharing it. The morning started with an overview of the day’s menu, followed by a tour through the abundant herb garden – local tarragon, parsley, cilantro, lemon grass and chadon beni (which is similar to cilantro but stronger with larger leaves) were begging to be harvested today!   Our sous chef provided insights about the vegetables and spices to be used in the cooking today, particularly chayote squash, green paw paw, peppers, coconut, fresh grated cocoa, bay leaves and chadon beni.  

Preparing a three course meal
Preparing a delicious
three course meal

After a tour of the garden, our guests – armed with recipes – were eager to start the preparation of their three course meal, while enjoying beverages of fresh coconut water, local spiced rum punch and “tea” made out of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, star anise and bay leaf.  

Lucian Fish Stew
Lucian Fish Stew

On the menu today was a vibrant, refreshing Island Salad made with grated squashes, green paw paw (papaya), lime, garlic, seasoned peppers and honey, along with a colorful Lucian Fish Stew of fresh turmeric, calloloo, white yams, carrots, unripe green bananas and a brightly colored and flavorful stock.  Dessert was a Cocoa Tea Flan prepared with grated cocoa and spiced with star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and nutmeg.

Castries open air market featuring island specialties such as ground seasoning peppers and hot sauce
Castries open air market

After a relaxed meal outside overlooking the beautiful bay from the hillside, guests made a quick trip to the famous Castries open air market, many buying the local cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise, and island specialties such as ground seasoning peppers and hot sauce. Armed with their spices, recipes and hands-on cooking experience, guests are excited to recreate their cruise memories at home.  

I wanted to select a recipe that reminded me of my many trips to St. Lucia and the colorful market in Castries. I’ve picked one of the favorites from The Culinary Center – Island-Roasted Caribbean Nuts.  I use the spice mixture on nuts, rub on roasted chicken and use in my banana bread… so check back tomorrow and enjoy!

February 4, 2015

Artist Spotlight: The Globally-Inspired & Multilayered Work of Frank Hyder

Artist Spotlight: The Globally-Inspired & Multilayered Work of Frank Hyder

The colorful images of koi fish, an archetypal symbol of good fortune and natural harmony, can often be found in Frank Hyder’s award-winning paintings – many of which are on display aboard our ships. Hyder, an accomplished artist that has showcased his work throughout North, South and Central America, has become known for translating simple images, such as heads and fish, into intricate constructions that hint at the innate complexity found in nature.  

Hyder’s vibrant works can be found throughout our ships, such as his triptych, Variegated Float, near Terrace Café on Marina. These and many of Hyder’s other unique works have origins deep in Venezuela in a cloud forest, a fascinating ecosystem noted for its pervasive and consistent cloud cover which creates a misty, and often surreal, environment. When Hyder was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2001, he and his family moved to a cloud forest in Venezuela where they lived for 15 months – a life-changing experience, he noted.

Variegated Float, Marina’s Terrace Café corridor, courtesy of Frank Hyder
Variegated Float, Marina’s Terrace Café corridor, courtesy of Frank Hyder

“It was there that I became interested in layers, depth—and the illusion of depth and layers—and interproximal space,” Hyder recalled. “It was transformational for all of us.”

Two of Hyder’s paintings on the pool deck of Riviera, courtesy of Frank Hyder
Two of Hyder’s paintings on the pool deck of Riviera, courtesy of Frank Hyder

Hyder explained that this focus led him to develop a special process that enabled him to explore these concepts more deeply. The process involves gold, silver and other metal leaf materials, a clear epoxy resin, along with layers of transparent colors, usually embedded in additional coatings of resins. The pouring of several layers of resin provides the effect of floating – the colors appear to be perpetually suspended in liquid. The special process frequently requires months to complete a work, and is a culmination of nearly 30 years of painting experimentation. The end result creates a shimmering multi-dimensional realm that calls to mind water, but also perhaps that of the intangible – the illusory, ethereal and otherworldly.

Hyder leading a workshop in Artist Loft, courtesy of Frank Hyder
Hyder leading a workshop in Artist Loft, courtesy of Frank Hyder

Drawing on global sources for his personal inspiration, Hyder similarly enjoys focusing his workshops in Artist Loft – calling on the destinations for inspiration.

“I like to offer experiences that connect to the travel experience,” Hyder noted.

For example, during a South Pacific voyage with Oceania Cruises, Hyder collected sand from Papeete, Bora Bora and several other islands—gathering sand in a range of colors and textures.

Variegated Tide, near Marina’s Terrace Café, courtesy of Frank Hyder
Variegated Tide, near Marina’s Terrace Café, courtesy of Frank Hyder

Then during a workshop, Hyder led the guests in tracing transfers of location images with the sand.

“The guests were really excited about it—we created something meaningful, rooted in the place and the experience,” Hyder said.

With over 30 of Hyder’s paintings showcased among our five ships, we invite you to discover his enchanting and thought-provoking artwork during your next voyage. 

February 2, 2015

Red Ginger Recipe: Watermelon & Duck Confit Salad

Spicy-duck-watermelon

This salad has become one of the true favorites of Red Ginger on board Marina & Riviera. Duck confit is a traditional ingredient in French cassoulet, but we pair it here with watermelon for a fresh and savory salad that is a real crowd pleaser. The crisp texture and sweetness of watermelon perfectly balance the chewy richness of duck confit.  

{ serves 6 }

SWEET FISH SAUCE INGREDIENTS

¾ cup palm sugar, coarsely chopped

¼ cup water

½ large shallot, coarsely chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, bulb portion only, coarsely chopped

1 kaffir lime leaf

½-inch piece galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

DUCK AND WATERMELON SALAD INGREDIENTS

Canola oil, for frying

½ cup raw cashew nuts

Kosher salt

6 confit duck legs

2 to 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

6 cups 1-inch-cube seedless watermelon

½ cup Thai basil or sweet basil leaves

½ cup mint leaves

½ cup cilantro leaves

1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot

FOR THE SAUCE: In a medium saucepan, combine the palm sugar and water, place over medium heat, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted – about 5 minutes. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the shallot, lemongrass, lime leaf and galangal and let sit at room temperature to cool and to infuse the flavors for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight. 

Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl. Discard the solids. Add 1 tablespoon each of the fish sauce and tamarind, mixing well. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce and tamarind if needed. Set the sauce aside at room temperature.

FOR THE SALAD: Pour 4 inches of canola oil into a large, deep saucepan and heat to 325°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a small plate with paper towels for draining the cashews and line a larger plate for draining the duck. Add the cashews to the hot oil and fry until crisp, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt while hot.

Increase the temperature of the oil to 350°F. Add 2 duck legs to the hot oil and fry, turning to brown on all sides, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to the towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining duck legs in two batches.

When the duck legs are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin from each leg in as large a piece as possible. Cut the skin into strips and set aside. Bone the legs and shred the meat into a bowl. Season to taste with the hoisin sauce. 

In a separate bowl, combine the watermelon, basil, mint, and cilantro. Add the duck meat, duck skin, cashews, and shallot. Toss with enough of the sweet fish sauce to coat lightly. You may not need all of the sauce. 

TO SERVE: Divide the salad among individual serving plates or martini glasses.

January 30, 2015

Renowned Teenage Musician Featured Aboard Riviera This March

Eb3Recognized by the Guinness World Records as “The World’s Youngest Solo Musician to Headline His Own Tour,” 14-year-old Ethan Bortnick has toured throughout the world, and has been sharing his musical genius with diverse audiences since he was a child. We are thrilled to have Ethan joining Riviera’s Mayan Mystique voyage for spectacular performances, Q&A sessions, DVD signings and more.

When he was just three years old, the Hollywood, Florida native begged his parents for piano lessons and discovered an uncanny ability to hear a song once and play it back note for note – the musical equivalent of a photographic memory. He soaked up the music of such diverse artists and composers as Beethoven, Mozart, jazz pianist Bill Evans, Little Richard, and Elton John, and began writing original compositions at age five. A few years later, Ethan began making television appearances and touring, connecting with audiences in countries such as South Africa, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

Eb1His deep musical knowledge, broad tastes and staggering talents make his performances engaging for everyone. Onstage, Ethan performs relaxing jazz, dazzling classical music, rock-n-roll and his own memorable originals. He knows hundreds of songs that he can instantly call up to memory. Sets can go from Beethoven to the Beatles to Bieber. It’s all a natural flow for Ethan, and he’s always relaxed before performances.

“I don’t get nervous before a concert,” Ethan said. “I usually play video games and as soon as they say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome...’ I give the video game to my dad and run onstage.”

Ethan has not only moved audiences throughout the world as a captivating musician, he is also a driven humanitarian, dedicated to combining his musical pursuits with his charity work. When Ethan was five, his younger brother had three heart surgeries and that emotional time inspired him to use his musical talents to benefit charity.

“I remember going to Miami Children’s Hospital and seeing a lot of sick children. I learned that some of these kids could not afford surgery so the hospital raised money for them. It made me want to help these kids,” Ethan explained.

Eb2Since then, Ethan has helped raise over $30,000,000 for nonprofits around the world. At these charity events, he’s shared the stage with such legends as Elton John, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Beyoncé, and Reba McEntire, among many others. In 2010, he joined some of music’s biggest names – including Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, and Tony Bennett as the youngest of the all-star lineup that recorded We Are The World 25 For Haiti. During Ethan’s voyage aboard Riviera, the proceeds of his DVD signings will be donated to one of his charities.

Ethan has also been featured on many national television shows, including multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America and Oprah, where he was named one of Oprah’s All Time Smartest, Most Talented Kids! In 2010, Ethan made history as the youngest musician to create and host his own award-winning, nationally-televised concert special on PBS, which aired over 600 times on Public Television stations nationwide. 

Eb4

For Ethan, the most fulfilling aspect of success is bringing people joy. “As long as the audience is enjoying the music, having fun, smiling and dancing, I’m happy and I love it!” he said.

Join us and witness this award-winning teenage pianist, singer and composer as he amazes audiences with his rare talent and amazing musical knowledge this March aboard Riviera!

January 28, 2015

Chef Kelly's Shrimp Risotto with Preserved Lemon

Shrimp-risottoRisotto is a northern Italian rice dish made with polished short-grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, Maratelli, or Vialone Nano, which will absorb about three times its volume in liquid. I am a big fan of risotto, and the love and care that you can actually taste when it is made properly. With risotto, the rice is the star of the show – the proper timing of the release of the amylopectin starches in the short-grain rice gives risotto its creamy texture. Some chefs cheat and add cream to their risotto, which in my opinion ruins the flavor and eclipses the rice. 

With the technique below, you can make myriad variations of risotto. The rich flavor of risotto varies depending on the broth and garnishes cooked with the rice. Just remember, the rice is always the star. I have recently experimented with whole-grain rice as well, an exciting way to make risotto without using white rice.

{ Serves 10 }

2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons diced preserved lemon rinds (see recipe below to make your own)

½ cup fresh peas

1 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice

¾ cup white wine

6 cups shellfish stock (see recipe below to make your own)

Freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the garlic. Heat the garlic for about 30 seconds, or until warm but not hot. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size. Do not overcook the shrimp. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the lemon rinds. Let the shrimp absorb the lemon, butter, and garlic flavors in the sauté pan while you make the rice.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Drain quickly and add the peas to the top of the shrimp in the sauté pan. Do not stir.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the rice. Parch the rice by cooking it for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and continue cooking until the mixture reduces to nearly dry, or “sec.”

Add the stock to the rice mixture ¼ cup at a time, so the rice can slowly absorb the liquid. Stir continuously. This process takes about 17 to 20 minutes.

Taste the risotto to determine if it is ready. Traditional risotto is served al dente, but if you prefer softer risotto, cook it a bit longer. Add the shrimp and pea mixture let it warm for 1 to 2 minutes. When the risotto is ready to serve, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to finish. The risotto should have a light, creamy consistency. Traditionally, cheese is not served with fish or seafood risotto, but if you like it, add it!

SHELLFISH STOCK

When making paella or risotto, I spend more time on the stock than anything else. This stock is well worth the time. You can double or triple this recipe and freeze the stock if you wish. When prepping shellfish for your paella or risotto, be sure to reserve the shells to use in this stock. If you do not have enough, you can ask your local fishmonger to reserve some shrimp shells for you.

{ MAKES 2 QUARTS }

2 to 3 pounds shrimp shells

1 pound lobster shells, broken into pieces

3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

1 large carrot, chopped

1 small fennel bulb, sliced

3 quarts filtered water or spring water, cold

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

½ bunch of thyme

½ bunch parsley

4 bay leaves

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, uncovered. Decrease the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours. Taste the stock, and if it is not flavorful enough, continue simmering for up to 1 more hour, tasting again after 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. If the stock is not clear, strain again. 

Preserved Lemon

{ MAKES 6 LEMONS }

6 lemons

5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) kosher or sea salt

10 ounces (about 1¼ cup) lemon juice

Wash the lemons very well, scrubbing thoroughly. Cut each lemon into 6 wedges or 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Remove the seeds. Place the lemons in a sterilized glass jar. Add the salt and lemon juice. The jar should be nearly full, and the juice must cover the lemons. Add more juice if necessary. Close a lid tightly on the jar. Store in the back of the refrigerator or any cool, dark place. Rotate the jar daily. Lemons will be ready to use after 4 to 6 weeks. They will keep for 3 to 4 weeks after opening and up to 1 year unopened.

Blog post submitted by Chef Kelly.

January 26, 2015

Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush

Alaska1When Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack discovered gold deposits in tributary of the Klondike River in August 1896, they triggered one of the world’s greatest gold rushes in history. The following year, a stampede of gold diggers arrived from all over the country, arriving in droves to the small towns of Skagway and Dyea, which served as gateways for the arduous trek to the goldfields. During the first year of the gold rush, around 20,000 to 30,000 prospectors flocked to region in hopes of finding gold. Only a small percentage did, but enough to spark rumors of limitless gold in the area – and a migration totaling to around 100,000 to an extremely harsh and remote region. By 1899, claims of gold in Nome, Alaska all but ended the great Klondike Gold Rush.

To this day, Skagway remains one of the best locations in Alaska to relive the days of the Klondike Gold Rush and gain insight on this brief but grand event that has captured the imaginations of many ever since. Skagway offers a range of historic sites and excursions that provide insight into the town’s momentous history.

Alaska2Go on a walking tour: Skagway’s historical buildings with turn-of-the-century facades evoke the gold rush boom town era that transformed the town forever more than a century ago. Visit classic restored saloons, like the Red Onion Saloon, along with the Moore House which was built 1887 by the founder of Skagway, Captain William Moore and features many of the pioneer family’s original treasured possessions.

Discover the Gold Rush Cemetery: A short walk from picturesque Reid Falls, the cemetery is home to the graves of Frank Reid and Soapy Smith, two of the most storied figures from the Klondike Gold Rush, along with founders and many other notable individuals from the era.

Explore the Trail of ’98 Museum: Home to a fascinating range of gold rush memorabilia, the museum offers interesting historical perspective and insight into the struggles and harsh conditions endured by prospectors during the gold rush.

Alaska4Ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad: Recognized as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, this narrow-gauge railroad was built in 1898 during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. Witness stunning panoramas that include the original Trail of ’98 and Dead Horse Gulch, along with gorgeous mountains, waterfalls and glaciers.

More than a century later, the pioneer spirit and freewheeling zeal of this gold rush boomtown lives on – both in the streets and saloons, and the curves in its legendary mountain passes.  

January 23, 2015

Transoceanic Voyages: A Classic Travel Tradition

141670435Truly embodying the Golden Age of ocean travel, a transoceanic voyage recalls the classic crossings made by the elegant and exclusive ocean liners of the early 1900s. Alluring the rich and famous with the most desirable way to travel, these grand ships hosted a stunning range of notable figures, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire and Sir Winston Churchill, just to name a few. The extravagant spaces of the ship were designed to be on par with the fashionable hotels, clubs and establishments of the era. Elaborate dining rooms evoked French châteaux and smoking rooms were reminiscent of late-Renaissance Italian palazzos. Everything was imbued with an air of grandeur, and the floating palaces enchanted all who could afford the luxury of traveling on one.

Bermuda FunchalWith such a rich heritage, a transoceanic voyage still offers one of the best and unique ways to explore the world. It offers an ideal blend of blissful days at sea and visits to exotic ports of call otherwise not easily accessible. During a single itinerary, you can leisurely explore both the gorgeous shores of Bermuda and the distinct flavors of Funchal, perhaps strolling the art deco-style market and tasting world-famous Madeira wine. Alternatively, you might explore Montreal’s romantic Old Town and later discover Northern Ireland’s most famous landmark, Giant’s Causeway, and some of Dublin’s most storied monuments.

SpaclubThe many exquisite pleasures of our beloved mid-size ships also encourage you to fully relax during your days at sea.  Attend engaging presentations by esteemed guest lecturers, indulge in relaxing spa treatments at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® and enjoy sumptuous cuisine at our gourmet specialty restaurants.

La-reserveOn board Riviera & Marina, you can also partake in featured wine tastings with friends at La Reserve by Wine Spectator, and attend hands-on cooking classes at The Culinary Center and art workshops and programs at Artist Loft. With our one-of-a-kind transoceanic voyages, embrace the timeless enchantment of sea travel and the magic of arriving in Europe without ever boarding a single flight.

Embark on a classic transatlantic crossing & join us this spring:

Beaches, Blooms & Bluffs | Miami to Barcelona aboard Riviera, April 1, 2015

River Routes & Channel Crossings | Montreal to London aboard Marina, May 18, 2015

January 21, 2015

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage

Iram Ali, a Miami native and new guest to Oceania Cruises, writes about her experience on board Riviera and traveling throughout the Mediterranean. This past fall, Iram and her best friend sailed from Athens to Barcelona with calls on Santorini, Florence, Monaco and Marseille, among others. She shares her favorite moments ashore as well as some of the top indulgences aboard Riviera. 

Is it possible to fall in love with an experience?

When I think back on my first Oceania Cruises voyage, I get goose bumps.  Staring into the eyes of Michelangelo’s magnificent David in Florence, strolling barefoot across the beautiful stony beach in Nice, taking in the breathtaking views of Santorini; to say it was perfect would be an understatement. 

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage
Riviera in Santorini, Greece

My best friend and I researched for months before we found our ideal itinerary, Autumn Wonders:  we’d board Riviera in Athens and cruise through the Mediterranean for 10 days with stops in Ephesus, Santorini, Taormina, Amalfi, Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo, Marseille and end in Barcelona.  

Extraordinary Destinations

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises VoyageWe flew into Athens one day before embarking Riviera. Excitement overpowered jet lag and after dropping off our luggage, we walked to the Plaka and had a wonderful lunch with a view of the Acropolis. Then we got on a train and toured many of the top sites in the area: the Acroplis, the Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Theater of Dionysis just to name a few. I couldn’t believe I was walking in the same area where Socrates and Plato once stood!

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises VoyageIn the months leading up to the cruise, I spent a lot of time googling photos of Santorini. Would it be as amazing as the pictures made it seem? Well, I got my answer as soon as we anchored near the island: It was so much more spectacular than a ‘Google Images’ search could ever reveal. We selected a Food and Wine Trails shore excursion, so we toured a local Greek winery and enjoyed delicious bread and cheese for lunch. Then we got lost walking through the white-washed town of Oia, took pictures and selfies near the famous blue domes and bought beautiful jewelry to remember the island.

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises VoyageFlorence was my favorite destination, and by far, the most fascinating one. As soon as we walked into the Palazzo Vecchio, we were greeted by a parade. I loved staring at the cathedrals with such detailed architecture and walls brimming with Renaissance and Romanesque style. When we walked into the Galleria dell’ Accademia, our jaws dropped at the sight of David. Here we were, circling around one of the most important pieces of art, completely mesmerized.

I love telling people that I’ve been to Monaco. If it weren’t for this amazing itinerary, when would I ever have had the chance to visit this luxurious principality? Our excursion first took us to Eze, a charming medieval village in the French Riviera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Then we drove to Nice, where we walked through a flower market, bought local artwork and spent time at the beach.  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises VoyageBack in Monaco, we visited the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the final resting place of Princess Grace and watched the changing of the guards at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. In Monte Carlo, we brushed shoulders with the rich and famous as we visited the casino and shopped in the high-end boutiques. 

Finest Cuisine at Sea

Three words: Miso Glazed Seabass. I’m often daydreaming about the food (so much food!) we had on board Riviera. Perhaps you can’t claim to have the finest cuisine at sea without it being true. Jacques, Toscana, Grand Dining Room, Terrace Café, Polo Grill, Waves Grill – every single meal on any given day, at any given restaurant was divine. Even early morning and late night calls to room service delivered mouth-watering meals. My favorite dish was the Miso Glazed Seabass at Red Ginger but the Filetto di Manzo alla Fiorentina con Crosta al Gorgonzola at Toscana was a very close second. The Gratiné à l’Oignon soup at Jacques was also amazing, as was the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Scampi over Roasted Vegetables at Polo Grill. On the second day of the cruise, we dined with two other guests at the exclusive Privée, which offered an indulgent, one-of-a-kind experience with beautiful views of the Mediterranean. 

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage
Private Dining in Privée

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage  Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage

We also enjoyed every party, trivia night and entertainment show on the ship. Captain Luca Manzi shook hands with every single guest who made it to the Captain’s Party on the first Saturday of the cruise. In the Riviera Lounge, we watched an intriguing magic show and learned how to do a few tricks of our own, and we couldn’t stop dancing to 70’s music during the Flower Power performance. We spent time in the gym and at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub – receiving a much-needed spa manicure and pedicure.  On our relaxing day at sea, we had delicious ice cream in waffle cones and napped by the pool. But out of every moment experienced on board and ashore, waking up with the sun upon a new skyline every morning was my favorite.

Extraordinary Experiences: My First Oceania Cruises Voyage
Sunrise in Monaco

So after almost two weeks of cruising throughout the Mediterranean, wouldn't you agree it's possible to fall in love with an experience? Before you answer, don't forget to try the Miso Glazed Seabass!

January 16, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Sunset Over The Temples of Bagan

© Dr. John Freedman

Pic1One of the greatest wonders of Asia is the visually striking landscape of thousands of ancient religious structures spread over the vast plain of Bagan in central Myanmar, a site known as the Temples of Bagan. This forest of “payas” (temples or pagodas) and stupas (holy shrines containing relics) was built along a wide bend of the Iriwaddy River between the 10th and 14th centuries when the ancient Kingdom of Bagan was thriving. The Kingdom covered much of present-day Myanmar, and Bagan was its political center and spiritual heart. Little has changed over the millennium to take away from the splendor that Marco Polo described as “one of the finest sights in the world.” Over two thousand temples remain today, from an estimated 10,000 that were built. The structures are of a seemingly infinite variety of shapes and of every size. Some are gigantic, majestic edifices while others are humble pillar-like tributes to the Buddha’s grace and wisdom. The sheer number is overwhelming, and even today the Bagan plain remains host to the greatest concentration of religious monuments ever built anywhere. Many consider it to be one of the “hidden” jewels of southeast Asia, as it receives just a small fraction of the tourists who visit other epic sites such as Angkor in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia. 

Pic2You can spend days exploring the temples, and for every one you climb to take in the expansive 360-degree view, you will see hundreds more beckoning you. Like other religious sites in southeast Asia, there are early Hindu influences which gave way syncretically to Buddhist architectural elements and iconography.  Many of the temples were built during the reign of the legendary King Anawrahta (1044-1078AD), who was a devout Theravada Buddhist and is considered by many to be the father of the Burmese nation. The plains of Bagan remained an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists even after Bagan was overrun by the Mongols in 1289, and they remain so to this day.  

Small roads, mostly unpaved, snake their way throughout the expansive plain, and you can travel them by horse cart, bicycle or automobile. I recommend trying all three modes of transport as each has its allure and advantages. The myriad of structures of every shape and size, and the refraction of light by the mist and dust that sit over the endless plain, give the vistas of Bagan an ethereal and other-worldly quality. In Bagan as nowhere else on earth, I get the sense that I could be looking at the remains of an ancient civilization on a distant planet. 

Pic3Unquestionably my favorite activity in Bagan is viewing the sunset from the top of one of the innumerable temples which have giant open terraces that serve as grand viewing platforms. There are so many temples to be climbed and you can choose your angle, decide how remote you wish to be, and even determine how many temples you want to see dotting the landscape before you. One of my favorites for a sunset view is Pyathada Paya, a 13th-century structure which is a bit off the beaten path in the eastern section of the plain. As the sun sets over the western plain, Pyathada’s easterly location means you will see a huge number of temples silhouetted before you, as well as the mighty Irriwaddy River in the background. Pic4The sense of other-worldliness is accentuated at sunset when the sun reflects off the saffron-tinged land and the pagodas become scattered jewels in every shade of pink and gold. The sun first reflects brilliantly off the gilded portions of the tops of many of the pagodas. Then, as it sets, all the structures slowly become more and more distinctly silhouetted. The scene is made all the more striking by the orange- and then purple-streaked sky, the rose-colored mountains, and the silver ribbon of the Irriwaddy as a backdrop. There is an ineffable sense of mystery that pervades, as is always the case when one is given to ponder the almost incredible story of our species and its amazing accomplishments.  A wonderful added bonus is the cool air that wafts in at sunset, bringing with it a sense of comfort and respite. The sight is one to behold, and the feeling is one of tranquility, beauty and wonder.

Pic5As one of Oceania Cruises’ passionate guest lecturers, Dr. John Freedman thrives on sharing his in-depth knowledge of international cultures while sailing around the globe with our guests. Combining his well-established career in medicine with a fascination with faraway lands, Dr. Freedman has led a number of medical volunteer programs and relief efforts throughout the world. He has spent over 30 years exploring Asia in particular, and delights in sharing his insight on the rich complexity of history and culture shaping this vast continent.

January 12, 2015

Chef Kelly Welcomes Talented New Culinary Faculty

Join me in welcoming two new members to our faculty!  Susie Heller has a longstanding affiliation with Oceania Cruises and Jacques Pépin - so we're delighted to have had her for Riviera’s recent Sunny Getaways and Mayan Mystique voyages.  She's just completed a new cookbook, The Pizza Bible, so I'm busy working on a new Master Class for mid-2015 based on this latest masterpiece from Susie and her collaborators!

Dave Cruz joins us from The French Laundry – without dispute, America's number one restaurant and the brainchild of Thomas Keller. Dave is using 2015 to prepare and launch a new Asian restaurant in Napa, so I'm delighted that he'll be joining us on several cruises this year!

Read more about these two talented chefs!

Chef Susie Heller

Chef Susie Heller
Chef Susie Heller

If the term ‘Renaissance Woman’ ever appeared in a culinary dictionary, the definition would be Chef Susie Heller. For 35 years, Chef Heller has been a teacher, caterer, restaurant owner, food critic and consultant  – and now a Chef Instructor for The Culinary Center aboard Riviera.  Her love of the sea came early in life, when her family took cruise vacations and her exposure to the cuisines of the world cemented her passion for travel, food and cooking.  

Chef Heller has long had a special relationship with Oceania Cruises, beginning in1985 when her career ‘took a turn’ after a trip to China with Chef Jacques Pépin. They became close friends and colleagues, and through Jacques, Chef Heller met Julia Child and became her culinary producer. Chef Heller, Jacques and Julia became an inseparable team whose partnership resulted in the many beloved public television cooking shows.  Chef Heller and Jacques remain close friends, and she produced our Taste the World cookbook in 2010.

Chef Heller is celebrated for her many television and cookbook productions, which have been honored by the James Beard Awards, International Association of Culinary Professionals, Emmys and the New York Times Best Sellers List. In addition to writing and producing, Chef Heller has developed products with Thomas Keller and Mourad Lahlou for Williams-Sonoma. She teaches private cooking classes, tends to her vineyard and olive grove at home, and is a passionate philanthropist and devoted grandmother.

Chef Dave Cruz

“When did you know you wanted to become a chef?” is a question guests often ask our faculty in The Culinary Center. For Chef Cruz, his mother would tell you that she knew he was destined to become a chef when as a 6th grader his class homework assignment was to ‘make something – anything – to share with everyone, and he chose to make food.

Chef Dave Cruz
Chef Dave Cruz

Chef Cruz discovered his true calling much later when studying for his engineering degree, working nights in dining rooms. One night, a chef didn’t show up so Chef Cruz stepped in and the rest – as they say – is history. After attending The Culinary Institute of America and gaining experience, America’s renowned Chef Thomas Keller discovered and hired him in 2004 as a Chef de Partie at Bouchon in Yountville, later promoting him to Executive Sous Chef. With the opening of Ad Hoc in 2006, he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine and was instrumental in the restaurant’s success. Under Cruz’s helm, Ad Hoc received a 3-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle and was included in the publication’s annual list of “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants” each year he was there.

Cruz has been featured in Food & Wine, The Oprah Magazine and Wine Spectator among many other publications.  His TV appearances include the Cooking Channel, Food Network, The Today Show, The Early Show and Martha Stewart. Chef Cruz is the Chef and Owner of soon-to-open Miles Restaurant.  While in the planning and development stages of his project, he continues as a consultant and private chef, and as a member of the faculty of The Culinary Center on Riviera.

We look forward to a great year with our talented new chefs!

January 9, 2015

Salmon Two Ways: Pan-Seared & Aquavit-Cured

Perfect for the winter, salmon makes for a delicious and healthy option that’s completely versatile and suitable to a variety of preparation methods. Chef Kelly provides two favorite recipes below. 

PAN-SEARED LACQUERED SALMON
{ SERVES 6 }

This is one of our favorite dishes from Oceania Cruises’ Taste the World cookbook. It takes salmon to a whole new level and pairs perfectly with Franck’s Mashed Potatoes or a simple and hearty green salad. 

Recipe1½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup dry sherry

3 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar

Canola oil

6 salmon fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each, boned and trimmed

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the soy sauce, sherry, and brown sugar. Heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar dissolves. Set aside in a warm spot.

Pour a generous film of canola oil into 2 large nonstick frying pans and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers but is not yet smoking. Place 3 fillets, presentation side down, in each pan and cook until golden on the undersides, about 2 minutes. Turn the fillets and cook on the second sides for 2 minutes. Remove the pans from the heat and transfer the fillets to a large plate.

Pour off the oil in the pans. Off the heat, add half of the soy sauce glaze to each pan and top with the fillets, presentation side up. Return the pans to medium heat and spoon the glaze over the tops of the fillets for about 30 seconds. Plate the fillets and serve.

Aquavit-Cured Salmon with Cucumber Salad
{ SERVES 2 TO 4 }

The tradition of curing salmon is an art form in the Baltic. This particular recipe is simple and easy to do at home. Given the price of gravlax, it can save you enough money to buy a good bottle of vodka!

I am particularly fond of curing salmon, which I learned from a fishmonger in Helsinki. He cures his salmon with all kinds of herbs and liqueurs, so once you have mastered our recipe, I hope you will experiment as I have with the many ways to enjoy one of the world’s most comforting fishes.

Recipe2SALMON

½ cup sea salt

1 teaspoon crushed red peppercorns

½ cup brown sugar

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

1 pound salmon fillet, boned and trimmed

2 tablespoons aquavit  

SALAD

2 English cucumbers

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons minced dill

2 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons sour cream

Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SALMON: Mix together the salt, pepper, sugar, and dill. Sprinkle half of the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap three times the size of the salmon. Sprinkle the salmon with aquavit. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the curing mixture, and then cover the fish with the rest of the curing mixture. Wrap the fish tightly in the plastic wrap and place it on a plate. Cover with another plate, weighed down with 2 to 3 cans or bottles. Set the plate in the refrigerator.

Turn the fish every 12 hours, draining off any brine that forms. Depending on the thickness of the fish, it will be ready in 24 to 48 hours, although you can let it cure for up to 4 days. Unwrap the fish when you are ready to serve and gently rinse off the cure. Thinly slice.

FOR THE SALAD: Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl. Add the cucumber and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve as an accompaniment to the salmon.

Bon appétit! 

January 7, 2015

Baltic Lore: Alluring Throughout the Ages

Baltic1Brimming with traditions, mythology and plenty of enchanting forests and storybook landscapes, the Baltic region has long captivated travelers with its distinctive blend of bucolic beauty and cultural treasures.

Throughout the region, folklore often takes center stage in many of the countries’ cultures. With one of the most enduring traditions of folklore, the Baltics have given rise to a number of fanciful creatures, keepsakes and tales that have become embedded in contemporary culture over time. Below, discover the roots of some of the most popular relics of the Baltics’ folkloric culture.

Baltic2Dala Horses: A centuries-old tradition in Sweden, the hand-carved and hand-painted Dala horse was first made in the province of Dalarna and sold at markets in the 17th century. The inspired image of the horse goes back even farther – thousands of years, compelling people to recreate the image in cave and rock paintings as a symbol of strength and courage. Today, several types of Dala horses are made, though the bright red version with the saddle in white, green, yellow and blue is the most iconic. Dala horses are cherished throughout the Baltic and around the world for their folk art charm and ties to tradition.

Baltic3Elves: Popularized by J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, elves originated centuries ago in Norse mythology, and have been said to live deep in the forest in a region called Alfheim. Freyr, one of the central gods in Norse mythology and god of fertility, has been recorded as the ruler of the elves. Typically portrayed as youthful and peaceful creatures in most myths and legends, elves are considered to be magical beings capable of either helping or hindering humans. They are even referred to as pagan gods in some Norse mythological texts.

Trolls: Also tracing their roots to Norse mythology, trolls have appeared everywhere from medieval maps to contemporary children’s tales. They are usually depicted as having a human-like appearance, but are characteristically ugly and large – and are often portrayed as stupid. According to legends and myths, trolls are considered to be either relatively harmless, or mischievous and a bit chaotic. According to some myths, trolls live high in the mountains in stone castles, and deep in the forests. Another myth, commonly portrayed in film and stories, holds that if trolls are exposed to sunlight, they instantly turn to stone.

Baltic4Fairy tales: Given the rich tradition of mythology and folklore, the Baltic region has also contributed a colorful legacy of fairy tales, with Danish author Hans Christian Andersen at the heart. Andersen penned a range of whimsical fairy tales which are now considered classics such as “The Princess & the Pea,”  “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” and “Thumbelina.” Other countries with a strong heritage of oral history have also been sources of fairy tales cherished for decades, such as Norway’s beloved “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

When considering its lasting legacy of folklore and fantasy, it’s no wonder the Baltics continue drawing travelers to its unique destinations – they enchant unlike anywhere else in the world. 

January 5, 2015

New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015

Our ships heralded the new year in style with exciting festivities, ice carvings, champagne toasts, music, dancing and more. Discover the highlights in our photo post below!

Guests enjoyed a spectacular New Year’s Eve ice carving and festive celebrations on the deck.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015  New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015 New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015  New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015 New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015  New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015

Live music, dancing and champagne toasts filled the decks with excitement aboard our ships.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015  New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015 New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015  New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015 New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015 New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015

Happy New Year from Oceania Cruises!

December 26, 2014

New Year’s Eve Traditions From Around the World

Nye1What will you be doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve? It all depends on where you are in the world. One of the most rewarding elements of travel is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, especially in the midst of holidays – and with New Year’s Eve, there’s no shortage of fascinating traditions just around the corner. Here’s a glimpse at a few of the most interesting New Year’s Eve traditions from countries throughout the globe.

Brazil: Brazilians famously celebrate New Year’s Eve wearing white – it symbolizes peace and renewal, and brings good luck for the coming year. Another tradition involves jumping waves, which is why the beach is such a popular New Year’s Eve spot – jump seven waves to start the new year with luck!

Colombia: This one speaks to the travel bug in all of us – many Colombians take out their suitcases at midnight and walk around the block with the suitcases in tow in order to ensure a year rich in travel and adventure. 

Ecuador: One of the most common Ecuadorian traditions involves burning effigies that represent the past year’s misfortunes. Crafted from newspaper, old clothes and pieces of wood, the effigies are burnt at midnight on New Year’s Eve when everyone gathers in the streets to observe the symbolic ritual of renewal.

Nye2Germany: One fascinating German New Year’s Eve tradition seeks to predict what the coming year will hold. Molten lead or other metal is dropped into cold water, and according to the tradition, the resulting shape is linked to predictions for the year. For example, a heart or a ring-shaped piece of metal might represent a wedding, a bell could mean you’ll inherit some money and a ship or boat-like form might point to travel.

Japan: On December 31st, Buddhist temples throughout Japan ring their bells 108 times at midnight to welcome the New Year god. The 108 bell tolls represent the number of human desires that exist according to Buddhist beliefs, and the ringing symbolizes a fresh start, washing them away with each toll. Many also don the costume of next year’s zodiac animal (in 2015, it’s the Sheep).

Nye3Spain: Revelers throughout the country await the stroke of midnight with 12 grapes in their hands. When the clock strikes midnight, it’s tradition to eat one grape for each bell toll: las doce uvas de la suerte. And if you finish all 12 by the clock’s last toll? You have good luck for the rest of the year!

Philippines: Since round shapes are thought to symbolize prosperity (representing coins), many Filipino families put out large displays of round fruit on New Year’s Eve, or prepare 12 round fruits – one to represent each month of the year. Others scatter coins throughout the house, in drawers and on tabletops, and some even wear polka dots in order to ring in a prosperous year.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a year filled with travel from all of us at Oceania Cruises!

December 22, 2014

The Story of the Nutcracker Doll

Nutcracker2Ever wonder how these quintessential Christmas soldier-dolls came to be? Calling to mind sugarplum fairies, the magical ballet performance and the festive holiday season, nutcracker dolls trace their origins back to German mountain villages in the 17th century – they were made alongside wooden toys in German workshops in the Erzgebirge region. Initially, they weren’t linked to the holidays at all, though they were often given as gifts and were considered a symbol of protection and good luck.

But why the iconic solider-doll form? According to one popular German folktale, a rich but lonely farmer thought the process of cracking nuts took away from his productivity, so he offered a reward to the villager who could devise the best solution. Each one used his particular skill or expertise – a carpenter provided a way to saw the nuts open, a soldier came up with a way to shoot them, and so on. However, as the folktale goes, it was the clever puppetmaker who claimed the reward with his distinctive lever-mouthed wooden doll. Local toymakers began carving nutcrackers in this fashion and it became the classic form of nutcracker that all families had at home. Since German households typically did not have more than one nutcracker per family, toymakers eventually began selling them elsewhere, such as Russia, Poland and Norway. The popularity of the dolls skyrocketed, and by the 1870s, nutcracker dolls were being produced in factories.

Nutcracker1 Nutcracker5 Nutcracker3

Nutcracker4Nutcrackers received even more attention when Peter Tchaikovsky adapted E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which of course features an on-stage manifestation of the wooden doll. Though first performed in St. Petersburg in 1892, the ballet wasn’t widely performed until much later – the mid-20th century. The ballet, along with World War II, carried nutcracker dolls stateside. Many soldiers who were in Germany visited open markets and fairs, and discovered the whimsical little wooden dolls. Enjoying the tradition behind the dolls, and the protection and good luck they symbolized, many soldiers returned home with a nutcracker doll for their families. This, combined with the introduction of the beloved Nutcracker ballet to the U.S., inspired an enduring nutcracker tradition that families continue throughout the country.

Happy Holidays from Oceania Cruises!

December 19, 2014

Introducing Sirena: Arriving Summer 2016

SirenaOne of our most exciting new developments is the growth of our fleet with the addition of Sirena – sister ship to our award-winning trio: Regatta, Insignia & Nautica. Sirena embodies the most treasured elements of our celebrated mid-size ships, and she will join the Oceania Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016 for her inaugural voyage OceaniaCruises.com/Sirena. Sirena, which means mermaid in Spanish, will introduce a spectacular new array of destination-rich itineraries spanning the globe. Her highly-anticipated launch season will be released in late February 2015 with reservations opening on March 4, 2015.

Discover Sirena’s highlights below, visit the new Sirena page on our website OceaniaCruises.com/Sirena, and stay tuned for more details in the coming months!

ToscanaSirena Highlights

  • Joining the Oceania Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016
  • Mid-size, elegant ship catering to just 684 guests
  • Exciting destination-rich itineraries with new ports
  • Renowned specialty restaurants Toscana and Polo Grill
  • Baristas coffee bar featuring specialty coffee drinks and homemade biscotti
  • Alfresco dining and a cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café
  • Acclaimed Canyon Ranch SpaClub® 

December 17, 2014

Classic Chocolate Bread Pudding Recipe

This custardy bread pudding with pockets of warm melted chocolate isn’t hard to make. In fact, when our Corporate Chef, Franck Garanger, was eight years old, one of his first jobs in his father’s pâtisserie in Angers, France, was assembling individual bread puddings (known in French as poudings diplomate) for the pastry case. “It probably began as a way for bakeries to use up day-old bread,” he says, “but it’s such a French classic that it’s now one of the forty-eight recipes on the first-year French cooking apprenticeship certification exam.”

You can make it with leftover brioche, croissants, or even pain au chocolat. You can also add ¾ cup golden raisins instead of, or in addition to, the chocolate. Plump them first, if you like, by covering them with boiling water, letting them soak for a few minutes, and then draining, before layering them with the bread cubes.

Bread-puddingIngredients
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
10 cups cubed leftover brioche
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
¾ cup chip-sized pieces semisweet chocolate

(Serves 6 to 8)

Prepare an ice bath by filling a larger bowl with ice water.

To make the custard for the pudding, in a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk and vanilla bean (if using) over medium heat. Heat to just below a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until blended. When the cream mixture is ready, slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking continuously, and then continue to whisk until fully combined. Remove the vanilla bean (if used), and scrape the seeds from the pod into the bowl. Return the combined mixture to the saucepan.

Select a bowl that will be large enough to hold the custard and will rest in the rim of the bowl holding the ice bath. Place a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl. Place the pan over medium heat and stir the custard constantly with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and steam just begins to rise from the surface, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour the custard through the strainer. Place the bowl over the ice bath and stir from time to time until the mixture is thoroughly cooled. (If it is warm, it will melt the chocolate.) Stir in the vanilla extract (if using).

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cut the brioche into half-inch cubes.

Spread one-third of the bread cubes in the prepared pan, and sprinkle with one-third of the chocolate. Repeat the layering twice, ending with the chocolate. Slowly pour the custard evenly over the bread, allowing it to settle and soak into the bread as you pour. Set the pan aside at room temperature for 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Place the pan holding the pudding in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan. Place the nested pans on the oven rack, and pour the hottest tap water possible into the larger pan until it reaches about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the smaller pan. Bake the pudding for about 1 hour. Begin checking to see if it is ready after 50 minutes: press on the bread cubes in the center of the pan. If you see liquid rise around the bread, continue to bake the pudding. When the center is just set, carefully remove the pudding, still in its water bath. Let the bread pudding cool completely in the warm water, or for at least 30 minutes, before serving. Cut into desired shapes to serve.

-Excerpted from The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises: Taste of the World

December 15, 2014

Guest Lecturer Post: Spectacular Angkor

Spectacular Angkor© Dr. John Freedman

Of all my experiences in Asia there is perhaps none more stunning and climactic than watching the sun rise over the incomparable Angkor Wat.

It is difficult to capture the essence of this singular experience with the written word, but let’s try. This architectural wonder served as the Khmer Empire’s great state temple (Angkor=Capital, Wat=Temple) in the early 12th century. It also was designed to serve as a magnificent mausoleum for its builder, the Sun God-King Suryavarman II. It has been described by observers throughout nine centuries with virtually every superlative available to writers in all languages. Intrepid French explorer Henri Mouhot, the temple’s 19th-century “discoverer” (of course, it had never truly been lost) wrote in his journal in 1862: “This grand temple, a rival to that of Solomon and erected by an ancient Michelangelo, is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” Its unparalleled enormity is not disputed – it is the largest religious structure ever built. Its artistic beauty, depth and unity, along with its engineering genius, complete the picture of a structure that represents the apogee of classical Khmer architecture and one of the greatest human achievements of all time. 

Spectacular AngkorTo watch the sunrise over the great temple one has to set out not long after 5:00AM and carefully walk down the long stone causeway over the temple complex’s 700-foot moat. The builders of Angkor were masters of hydrology and the entire city was one of moats, canals, and great reservoirs known as baray. Angkor Wat’s huge moat was designed not only for protection and irrigation purposes, but also to create an earthly incarnation of the celestial ocean which surrounded the mythological home of the ancient Hindu gods, Mt. Meru. Angor Wat’s five grand towers or prasats are each shaped like a lotus bud and taken together they represent the five peaks of Mt. Meru. They are arranged in a quincunx, which is an ancient Hindu pattern with four towers on the four corners of a rectangle and one majestic tower in the middle. We watched in awe as the saffron disk of the sun spread its soft bath of light over the entire “temple mount” scene.

Spectacular AngkorOf all the superlatives used to describe Angkor Wat, three seem most apt and encompassing: spectacular (the wow factor is certainly the first reaction), timeless (thus one stands in the Cambodian jungle today to watch the sun rise over the tomb and funerary temple of a ruler who left this earth in the year 1150AD), and captivating (the fascinating history and culture of this great Hindu temple city, which later became Mahayana Buddhist and then Theravada Buddhist, is endlessly absorbing and intriguing). In the full light of the pleasantly cool morning it is then a treat to follow the sunrise homage with a personal exploration of this amazing structure. Imagine three-quarters-of-a-mile of finely carved bas-reliefs depicting innumerable scenes from the Hindu epics as well as the pomp and ceremony of the Sun King’s court and gripping depictions of his epic battles. It is has been said without exaggeration that Angkor Wat is the most richly carved building in the world. As you ascend the temple mount, you will cross three progressive enclosures, rising higher and higher until you reach the upper level of the temple mount from where you can gaze down at the vast jungle in which this improbable jewel is ensconced. Imagine the expansive jungle as it was in Angkor’s glory days:  peopled with over 1 million inhabitants in long-gone wooden and thatch houses. Today, only stone survives. If you have very high expectations for your trip to Angkor Wat, prepare to have them exceeded by this indescribably beautiful and impressive monument to the great Khmer civilization that ruled the Indochinese Peninsula for more than 600 years.

Spectacular AngkorBut the great imperial city of Angkor had hundreds of magnificent temples besides Angkor Wat, and many stand today as testaments to this grand civilization. One should not miss the famed and exotic-looking Ta Prohm, with its armature of giant fig trees, or the enigmatic Bayon with its 256 giant Buddha-like faces (actually the God of Mercy, Lokeshvara – or perhaps the face of God-King Jayavarman VII who built the temple). A perfect complement to a morning taking in Angkor Wat’s grandeur is an afternoon visit to Banteay Srei, a small and exquisitely wrought temple constructed of a rare rose-hued sandstone. Banteay Srei is renowned for the refinement of its intricate carvings on every pediment (the triangular area above an entrance doorway) and lintel (a cross-beam over an entrance doorway or wall) as well as its innumerable walls, doors, and arches. Dramatic episodes from the mythopoeic Hindu epics are finely carved, as if by a jeweler’s hand, at every turn. The carving was so exquisite that when the temple was first “discovered” in the late 19th century it was felt to date from the early 14th century, about 200 years after the building of Angkor Wat. Decades later the consecration stele was unearthed and the temple was able to be precisely dated to 967 AD — a full 150 years before the building of Angkor Wat was even begun. One can only marvel at this artistic tour de force and it is made all the richer by the soft golden glow of the late afternoon sun.

Spectacular AngkorThe glories of ancient Angkor will never cease to amaze. Spectacular, timeless, captivating!

As one of Oceania Cruises’ passionate guest lecturers, Dr. John Freedman thrives on sharing his in-depth knowledge of international cultures while sailing around the globe with our guests. Combining his well-established career in medicine with a fascination with faraway lands, Dr. Freedman has led a number of medical volunteer programs and relief efforts throughout the world. He has spent over 30 years exploring Asia in particular, and delights in sharing his insight on the rich complexity of history and culture shaping this vast continent.

December 10, 2014

Discovering Denali

Alaska7Alaska is one of my favorite cruise destinations because I can spend hours on deck, mouth agape, as I marvel at one spectacular landscape after another. And the experience is even more thrilling when you venture inland. I had the chance to do just that on an unforgettable five-day land tour with Oceania Cruises prior to an Alaskan voyage on Regatta.

Arriving in Anchorage, I had plenty of time to relax and explore the city before boarding a deluxe motorcoach the next day for a stunning drive north on the famous George Parks Highway. The unbelievably scenic road winds through the tundra, soaring mountain peaks, glaciers, forests and wild rivers that define the Alaskan interior.

Alaska5Upon reaching the town of Talkeetna, a National Historic Site, I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the charming streets before boarding a luxury dome railcar. From the upper-level dome, the scenery became more breathtaking by the mile and culminated with our arrival at Grande Denali Lodge, perched on the edge of a bluff less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National Park. Dinner that night was accompanied by an enlightening lecture that left me eager to discover the park’s many wonders.

Alaska4The next morning I experienced the staggering beauty of Denali National Park, which encompasses the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, soaring 20,237 feet into the heavens. Along with my fellow guests, I explored a subarctic wilderness that supports more than 650 species of plants, including blue forget-me-nots – Alaska’s state flower – that add dramatic splashes of color.

Alaska2Like most visitors, I’d come to Denali hoping to see the rich diversity of animals, and I was not disappointed. Watching a bear frolic near a salmon stream was a sight I won’t soon forget. I also saw a herd of sure-footed Dall sheep, known for their curling horns, happily munching on grass in a meadow. And soaring over it all as if to add an exclamation point to the day was a pair of majestic bald eagles.

The following day we awoke to a cloudless blue sky that allowed postcard-perfect views of Mount McKinley as we drove toward the Iditarod Sled Dog Kennel. Here we learned about the amazing dogs that cover 1,150 miles of Alaska’s rugged terrain on what is called the “Last Great Race on Earth.” Alaska6

Our journey continued along the scenic shoreline between the Chugach Mountains and the waters of Turnagain Arm until we arrived back in Anchorage for the evening. The next day we boarded Regatta for a cruise along Alaska’s fabled Inside Passage. Reminiscing about the past few days inland and looking forward to new discoveries by sea, I knew that with Oceania Cruises I would truly experience all the wonders of the Last Frontier.

December 8, 2014

Barbara’s Bridge Tip: To Pull or Not to Pull?

Bridge-barbara-seagramOne of our favorite Bridge Instructors, Barbara Seagram, has been coaching players aboard our ships for the past six years. An award-winning player and the author of a number of popular bridge books, Barbara never tires of sharing her love of the game. Below, she shares one of her top bridge tips. 

To pull or not to pull, that is the question! Trumps that is. We learned at mother’s knee that we should always get the kiddies off the street. Thus as new players, we assume that on all hands we should make “drawing trumps” the first order of business.

In order to decide whether or not to embark immediately upon pulling trump, let us explore the scenarios in which doing so will cause us to not make our contract.

97642

K93

3

AJ62

 

 ---

QJ10876

A52

KQ43

BridgeYou and partner have overbid considerably on this hand and you (south) have landed in 6 Hearts. West leads the Ace of Spades. South counts his losers to find that he has 1 trump loser and two Diamond losers. He looks to dummy and notes that there is a singleton Diamond over there. Great. First item on the agenda: Create a Diamond void in dummy and ruff a Diamond loser in dummy, crossing back to his hand with a Club to ruff the final Diamond in dummy. Hold it…suppose he thinks to himself that he only needs to ruff two Diamonds in dummy and therefore can afford to pull one round of trump first. Alas, the opponents will win the Ace of Hearts and lead back a Heart. Now there is only one Heart left in dummy with which to ruff two Diamonds. Moral of this story: When you have a useful singleton, doubleton or void in dummy and have to ruff some losers from declarer’s hand with dummy’s trump, don’t pull trump first unless you have gazillions of trumps hanging around in dummy.

On this next hand, you have arrived in 4 Spades. You are South and West leads the K Hearts.

 J643

A52

 AQ3

Q102

 

 

KQ752

643

K7

KJ6

Bridge-2Counting those pesky losers again, you find that you have 1 Spade loser, two Heart losers, no Diamond losers and one Club loser. One too many. Let’s analyze those Heart losers again. Are they quick losers or slow losers? Since we won the Ace Hearts at Trick # 1, the two small Hearts are now quick losers as opponents will take two tricks QUICKLY if they win the lead. Along with Ace of Trumps and Ace of Clubs, this will spell disaster. So, the moral here is: When you have quick losers and no Ace of trump, try to discard a loser before pulling trump. Look for an extra winner i.e. A good looking lopsided suit (more cards on one side of the table than the other) which will provide an opportunity for a discard. Careful how you play that suit…Play the Diamond 3 to the King, then the Diamond 7 to the Ace and Queen of Diamonds. On the Queen of Diamonds, you must now pitch the Heart 4. Aha, now you can pull trump safely because now the opponents cannot hurt you. Less experienced players worry and think: “What if the opponents trump the third round of Diamonds?” Well in that case, you were never going to make the contract. If you had pulled trump first, you would have lost the next 4 tricks in a row.

Now for one more occasion in which you must not pull trump first:

32

Q108

432

AK542 

 

 

AQ87

AKJ9754

AK

 --- 

Bridge_4This time you made it all the way to 7 Hearts! Three potential Spade losers. Looks like a finesse situation. HMM…There are two extra winners over in dummy on which you can discard two small Spades. Then what? Finesses only work 50% of the time. Is there an alternative to doing the finesse? Yes! Dummy has a long suit…a five card suit! Always a good thing! Dummy has no entries however other than the trump suit so we cannot pull all the trump first. Opponents lead a Diamond. Shame they didn’t lead a Spade to be helpful! You win this and now you cross to dummy’s Heart 8 and play the AK Clubs, discarding your two small Spades. Now ruff a Club in your hand, carefully counting opponents’ cards in this suit. They follow. Back to dummy with Heart 10 to do this again, one more time with feeling. Lo and behold, you ruff the fourth club and opponents follow to four rounds of Clubs. Awesome. Now your fifth Club in dummy is finally high! Cross to dummy’s Q Hearts and play the thirteenth Club, pitching your Spade Q. 

So, to summarize: These are the three commonest occasions on which we, as declarers, cannot afford to pull trump first: 

  1. When we need to ruff losers from declarer’s hand with dummy’s trump.
  2. When we have quick losers and no Ace of trump, we need to first look for a parking place for our quick loser (extra winners in dummy or declarer’s hand on which we can make a DISCARD).
  3. When dummy’s trump will provide you with the only entries to dummy e.g. Long suit establishment.

These situations crop up very often. So be careful to watch for these. If you haven’t got one of these dilemmas, then it is probably okay to get the kiddies off the street right off the bat. 

Join the bridge fun on one of our Signature Sailings in 2015, featuring bridge lessons and tournaments with an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor!

December 5, 2014

Q&A with our Around the World Captain: Dimitrios Flokos

Captain Dimitrios Flokos
Captain Dimitrios Flokos

Our highly anticipated Around the World in 180 Days voyage is drawing nearer and near – now almost just one short month away from the departure date. We recently caught up with Captain Dimitrios Flokos, who will be at the helm for this fantastic journey. Below, Captain Flokos shares insight on what led him to a life at sea, his hopes for the upcoming Around the World voyage, and more.

How did your childhood shape your ambitions and dreams?

Both my father and grandfather were seafarers, and I was born in the port city of Volos, Greece.  It was my destiny to follow in their footsteps. Times were difficult back then – the city of Volos experienced a devastating earthquake in 1955 and my family was forced to temporarily relocate to Piraeus, the main port of Greece. I was just five years old.  Walking down to the port alongside my father watching the liners docking is when I first developed my desire to become a seafarer. Serveral years later, I returned and I commenced my maritime training there.

Capt. Flokos in Cannes
Capt. Flokos in Cannes

What do you love most about being a captain with Oceania Cruises?

From the very start, it has been a labor of love. We started out as a small company and we knew each and every one of us had to do our part to grow the company in order to achieve the success that we all envisioned. I am proud of the success that Oceania Cruises has achieved over the years and look forward to the furture as the company evolves, allowing for further growth and success. 

Can you share one of your most memorable experiences? 

My most memorable experience is Marina's christening. I had the privilege of working on the new building team in Genoa while she was being built and took great pride when she was christened in Miami. Another memorable experience was when I sailed Marina into my hometown port of Volos in November of 2011. My nephew and his new bride were aboard on their honeymoon, and it was a very special time for me.  

Have you ever traveled around the world before? Not yet – so this is an adventure we will embark on together!

What are you most looking forward to on the Around the World voyage? 

I have a great deal of confidence that this will be an extraordinary experience for our guests and our crew. We have over 500 guests that will sail the entire 180 days. As for destinations, the Hawaiian ports are high on my list – I haven’t yet explored them and am really looking forward to having the chance to do so.  I have enjoyed the many friendships that I’ve made over the years and predict that the upcoming Around the World cruise will allow for even greater opportunities to build lasting friendships.

Passing the Statue of Liberty aboard Marina in 2013
Passing the Statue of Liberty aboard Marina in 2013

Since you’ve spent so much time at sea and aboard a ship throughout the world, what advice would you share with our guests who might be embarking on their first voyage of such a grand scale?

Go with the intention of having the cruise of a lifetime.  Relax and take the experience as it comes. Have a sense of adventure, stay flexible and most importantly – embrace the opportunity to form friendships that can last a lifetime.

Bon voyage from Captain Flokos!

December 3, 2014

Find Your Place in the Sun: My Favorite Caribbean Beaches

One of our guests, a native Chicagoan, was inspired by the early winter weather this year, and shares her top picks for beaches in the Caribbean below.

Unless I’m gliding down powdery slopes, I find every excuse to escape cold weather. Since our winters in Chicago are usually frigid – and can seem to drag on forever – I try to head down to the Caribbean as often as possible during these months. Here, there’s no shortage of gorgeous sunny beaches with soft sand, inviting turquoise waters and palms swaying in the breeze, but I do have a few favorites that offer great escapes.  

1. Dickenson Bay, Antigua: One of the island’s best beaches, this sandy stretch just north of St. John’s offers breathtaking scenery, serene blue waters and radiant sunshine. Nearby restaurants and bars are so laid-back that you can just towel off, slip on your sandals and go – enjoying a refreshing drink or bite to eat with the Caribbean breeze on your face.

Antigua Antigua Antigua

2. Colombier Beach, St. Barts: Still referred to as “Rockefeller’s Beach,” this secret hideaway can only be reached by boat, or by rugged hiking trails, which are actually worth the trek for the stunning views you’ll see. David Rockefeller used to own property surrounding this beautiful beach – it’s a spot that’s nicely secluded and really feels like a hidden gem.

St. Barts St. Barts St. Barts

3. Dunn’s River Beach, Jamaica: This island is full of beautiful beaches, but this is one of the most stunning – it features a spectacular 600-foot waterfall at Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios. It has a fun and laid-back atmosphere, and the beach is perfect for sunbathing and swimming – plus, you can easily enjoy a lively trek up the river, the mist of the cascading falls cooling you off.

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

4. Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia: Tucked away in a sheltered cove just north of Soufrière, Anse Chastanet feels like a genuine exotic island getaway. One of the best locations for snorkeling in St. Lucia, you can discover coral and marine life right off of the beach. Surrounded by emerald mountains on one side and the cerulean waters of the Caribbean on the other, this beach also has the most beautiful dark sand – volcanic sand that glistens in the sun. I never tire of this unique beach…as soon as I arrive, time seems to slow, the sun relaxes my entire body and the harsh Chicago weather seems to be a distant memory.

St. Lucia St. Lucia St. Lucia

The beautiful islands of the Caribbean are never more alluring than in the winter. And discovering new beaches and tropical escapes is a pastime that I can easily see lasting a lifetime!

December 1, 2014

Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries

In between luxurious moments spent in your over-the-water bungalow or world-class resort, there’s much to discover below the surface in gorgeous Bora Bora. The protected lagoon offers ideal conditions for unique marine life, and the calm, crystal-clear waters make snorkeling a dream – even for those who have never tried it before. Boasting some of the region’s most fascinating marine life, below are some of the top sea creatures you can witness during your stay.

Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries 1. An abundance of tropical fish: intricately patterned butterflyfish and colorful parrot fish thrive in Bora Bora’s surrounding waters. The classic orange and white clownfish, along with Picasso triggerfish and stunning yellow and electric blue angelfish, are also quite common in the lagoon. Discover these unique fish up close while snorkeling or on a glass-bottomed boat.
 
Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries 2. Stingrays: elegant and harmless stingrays are known to glide around Bora Bora’s lagoon. It’s likely you’ll also see black tip reef sharks, a shark species with one of the most timid demeanors. Spend an afternoon discovering these graceful creatures amidst Bora Bora’s crystal clear waters.

 
Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries 3. Sea turtles: according to Tahitian mythology, these sacred creatures are considered to have their origins in powerful sea gods. Sea turtles are protected on Tahiti and you can visit one of Bora Bora’s sea turtle sanctuaries to discover the authentic world of these majestic creatures.
 

Spac24. Brilliantly colored starfish: Their striking colors help to camouflage them amidst other brightly colored marine life and can help scare off predators. Fascinatingly pure marine animals, starfish actually rely on sea water instead of blood to circulate nutrients in their bodies. Starfish are also renowned for their ability to regenerate its limbs. Witness these iconic sea creatures throughout Bora Bora’s lagoon and beyond.

Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries 5. Coral: coral gardens and formations flourish in Bora Bora’s waters. Coral polyps, the organisms which build reefs, are actually fascinating soft-bodied animals which attach to rocks on the sea floor and then bud into thousands of clones over time. The three most common types of coral reef found in Bora Bora are cauliflower, elkhorn and finger corals, all of which provide rich habitats for a diverse range of marine life. Explore one of Bora Bora’s vibrant coral gardens on a memorable snorkel adventure tour.

Bora Bora is truly one of the most beautiful destinations in the world – both above and below the sea!

November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Treat: Franck Garanger's Famous Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving1Tomorrow Americans will be giving thanks as they celebrate that most delicious of holidays. It’s hard to dispute that the most essential ingredient in a Thanksgiving feast is the turkey, but in my family, besides the bird, the most important dish was always the mashed potatoes.

Any fans of mashed potatoes sailing with Oceania Cruises this Thanksgiving are in for a real treat, because they will get to enjoy the famous mashed potatoes of Oceania Cruises Culinary Director Franck Garanger. When Garanger was a young apprentice, he was asked to make mashed potatoes for a French master chef – for the chef’s personal lunch, no less! Perfect mashed potatoes are the mark of a great French chef, and Garanger passed the test with flying colors. In fact, the master said they were the best mashed potatoes he had ever eaten, a compliment Chef Garanger has never forgotten.

Having enjoyed these potatoes myself, I can attest to their perfection. They practically melt in your mouth, drenching your palate in rich, creamy, buttery goodness. (Some may consider this blasphemy, but I would happily skip the pumpkin pie and have more of these potatoes for dessert!) Here is the recipe if you’d like to make them for your own Thanksgiving feast:

PotatoesFRANCK GARANGER’S MASHED POTATOES

{SERVES 4 TO 6}

 1 pound medium russet potatoes, peeled

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup whole milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature and cut into pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the potatoes with enough salted water to cover them by at least 1 inch, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 25 minutes. Drain and let cool for 5 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooling, combine the cream, milk, and nutmeg in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the mixture is hot. Remove from the heat.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into a clean saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and stir with a wooden spatula for 5 to 10 minutes to remove any excess water and dry the potatoes.

Gradually stir in the hot cream mixture with the spatula, a little at a time. Adding it slowly allows the potatoes to absorb it gradually, resulting in creamier mashed potatoes. Stir in the butter pieces a few at a time until fully incorporated. Stir in the salt and adjust the seasoning to taste. 

November 25, 2014

Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to Bronze

Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to BronzeWith truly ancient roots in history, chopsticks have been used for over 5,000 years. Originating in China, these slim and elegant eating utensils were actually first used primarily as kitchen tools. Chopsticks later spread to Japan and Korea, and eventually Southeast Asia.

It’s often thought that the teachings of one of China’s greatest philosophers, Confucius, may have helped solidify the ascent of chopsticks. A vegetarian, he was a strong advocate of leaving sharp utensils off the dinner table, and using chopsticks, which instead represented benevolence and gentleness.

Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to BronzeChopsticks have long been made out of many different materials, but bamboo remains the most common, preferred since it does not conduct heat, nor does it hold any odors or tastes. Various materials, such as ivory, bronze and gold, came into use with different Chinese dynasties. During the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC – 1050 BC), the King and Queen favored ivory chopsticks since ivory was the most valuable material available. Bronze chopsticks were used during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 BC – 771 BC), while lacquered chopsticks were popular during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD). Gold and silver came into use during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), and silver was highly prized by royalty – it was believed that the silver would corrode and turn black if the food had been poisoned.

The shape and length of chopsticks also vary according to region and country. For example, Japanese chopsticks are typically shorter, with tapered ends and are often lacquered, while Chinese chopsticks are usually longer and end in blunt, flat tips.

The next time you’re on board, visit Red Ginger and choose from Oceania Cruises’ special selection of chopsticks to enjoy an unforgettable meal.  

Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to Bronze Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to Bronze Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to Bronze 

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.

Blog1 Holidaywine3 Holidaywine2

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.

Holidaywine4 Holidaywine7 Holidaywine6

November 19, 2014

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating History

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating HistoryMention the South Pacific and one of the first images conjured is nearly always the iconic carved Tiki. Long a revered symbol of the South Pacific, the Tiki has a rich history rooted in ancient civilization. Tiki statues have been found throughout the South Pacific dating back at least 3,500 years. Their appearances vary according to the region, though they usually feature a stylized masculine form with large eyes and an often menacing expression which is meant to scare away evil spirits.

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating HistoryA number of island groups have their own legends and mythology that explain the significance of Tiki statues. According to many Polynesian legends, Tiki was believed to be the first man on earth and the statues carved to honor this were considered sacred and powerful. Throughout the Hawaiian islands, Tiki statues were carved to pay homage to several ancient gods identified with elements like the sea, light and war. Meanwhile in ancient Maori culture, Tiki is considered the goddess of childbirth and the Tiki symbol was often worn to protect against infertility. Across cultures and regions, statues often marked sacred sites, signifying that the location was a place of worship or was otherwise a revered spiritual location.

The Origin of Pop Tiki Culture

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating HistoryTiki culture made the leap to the U.S. in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian themed restaurant in Hollywood, California. The restaurant served Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches and décor capturing the island escape ambiance: carved Tikis, masks, torches, rattan furniture, flower leis and vibrantly colored fabrics. The proprietor, Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, was a young man who had sailed throughout the South Pacific and found inspiration in the dreamy Polynesian islands and their enigmatic Tiki carvings and mythology. 

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating HistoryThe restaurant was immediately a hit among Hollywood stars and the elite, and garnered attention from LIFE Magazine. Others, like Trader Vic (created by Victor Bergeron) in Oakland, quickly adopted the Tiki theme for their restaurants. Tiki-themed bars and restaurants rapidly became a sensation throughout the country. With the return of soldiers from the South Pacific after World War II, Tiki culture skyrocketed in popularity even further. The romanticized version of Tiki culture spread into other aspects of American culture, influencing everything from home décor and architecture to music and clothing. The island fervor peaked in the late 1950s and early 1960s, booming with attractions such as Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. By the early 1970s, the widespread exposure and popularity of Tiki culture seemed to finally cause the enchantment to begin to fade.

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating HistoryOver time, the relationship with Tiki culture transformed into one of nostalgia and fondness, and it is now often appreciated for its kitsch appeal. The Tiki splendor of the earlier era continues to live on today, such as with San Francisco’s iconic Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the Fairmont Hotel which was built in 1945, and features an artificial lagoon, Tiki torches and island “rainstorms” on the half-hour.

Explore the lands of the true Tiki on a dream getaway in the South Pacific in 2015:

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 14, 2014

Gaudí’s Magnificent Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, the sun-drenched Mediterranean city known for its diverse international culture, a thriving arts scene and world-class cuisine, has always allured travelers quite unlike any other city in Europe. The capital of Catalonia attracts an endless stream of visitors for so many reasons, but none are quite as inextricable from the place itself as its legendary architecture. And rarely does a single architect become so deeply intertwined in a city’s identity that he or she becomes nearly synonymous with it – as Gaudí is with Barcelona.

Madman or Genius?
Born in Reus in 1852, Antoni Gaudí was the son of a boilermaker and became fascinated with architecture at a young age. In fact, he has said that his early observations of the boilermakers at work influenced his understanding and skill in working with three-dimensional space. He was often in weak health as a child and had to spend much time recuperating at home. This led to his many hours of contemplating nature and drawing, which later came to deeply influence his architectural style. He went on to study in Barcelona, and later graduated from the Provincial School of Architecture in 1878. Upon signing Gaudí’s certificate, the director of the School of Architecture, Elies Rogent, reportedly remarked: “We have given this degree to a madman or a genius; only time will tell.”

Parc Güell
Parc Güell

The Fated Rise
The same year of his graduation, a fateful introduction at the Paris World’s Fair to industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship and important professional relationship – Güell would become his main patron and sponsor. The introduction led to Palau Güell, and later, the renowned Parc Güell and many other structures. Deeply influenced by nature and organic forms, Gaudí placed an emphasis on designing structures with a very fluid and organic aesthetic early on. He also became known for popularizing the colourful mosaic tilework, an ancient Catalan tradition and a signature on many of his structures.

Around 1914, La Sagrada Família became his all-consuming obsession and Gaudí withdrew from his social life and abandoned all other work to focus on it. During the last years of his life as funds rand out, he contributed to the project and was often seen asking for donations from anyone likely to contribute. In 1926, Gaudí was run over by a tram and died.

Undoubtedly, his legacy lives on today. His groundbreaking works have left an enduring impact on the world of architecture and seven of his structures have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their exceptional creative contribution – genius it most certainly was.

Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Palau Güell
Palau Güell
Parc Güell
Parc Güell
Parc Güell
Parc Güell
Casa Milà
Casa Milà
La Sagrada Família
La Sagrada Família

Gaudí’s Top Sites in Barcelona

La Sagrada Família
La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família: Under construction for more than 100 years, La Sagrada Família is an expiatory church; that is, it has been built solely from donations since the very beginning. The massive structure features a highly symbolic façade with sections devoted to representations of the Nativity and the Stations of the Cross, and the soaring bell towers are dedicated to the 12 apostles.

Casa Batlló: An unusual house originally designed for a wealthy aristocrat, Casa Batlló’s fantastical features have made it one of Barcelona’s most emblematic structures. The undulating façade shimmers with glazed tiles and ceramic discs, hinting at marine life and the striking iridescent tiles composing the roof are reminiscent of a dragon’s scales.

Parc Güell: A must-see in Barcelona, Parc Güell is a landscaped park designed by Gaudí that features his signature mosaic tilework, the infamous Gaudí dragon and a terrace with sweeping views of the city.

Casa Milà
Casa Milà

Casa Milà: Also known as La Pedrera (The Quarry), the sinuous building comprises two apartment blocks connected by interior courtyards. It is recognized by its rippling gray stone façade that resembles an open stone quarry.

Palau Güell: A mansion designed for the industrial tycoon, Palau Güell is one of Gaudí’s earlier works. The sprawling home has 18 fanciful chimneys and centers on a grand entertaining room with soaring arches. Guests would enter in horse-drawn carriages through the front gates, which are composed of intricate ironwork patterns resembling seaweed.

Explore Gaudí’s magnificent Barcelona in 2015 during one of these extraordinary voyages aboard Riviera:

Beaches, Blooms & Bluffs from Miami to Barcelona | April 1, 2015

Coastal Hideaways from Barcelona to Rome | April 25, 2015

Artistic Discoveries from Venice to Barcelona | May 11, 2015; July 25, 2015; November 7, 2015

Pearls of the Mediterranean from Rome to Monte Carlo | Jun 16, 2015

November 12, 2014

Celebrating Jacques in 2015: How the “Finest Cuisine at Sea” Came to Be

Celebrating Jacques in 2015Executive Culinary Director and Master Chef Jacques Pépin will be hosting his much-anticipated annual Signature Sailing aboard Riviera’s Iberian Inspiration voyage departing Lisbon July 7, 2015. Sailing with Chef Pépin is always memorable, but the 2015 voyage is certain to be extra special—Chef Pépin will be celebrating his 80th birthday on board. He will be joined by his daughter Claudine, co-host of Chef Pépin’s award-winning “Cooking with Claudine” television series, his granddaughter, as well as his wife, Gloria.

The legendary Chef Pépin has been working closely with our chefs for over ten years to continually offer inspired cuisine that rivals that of the finest shoreside restaurants. Bob Binder, Vice Chairman of Oceania Cruises, shares how Chef Pépin and Oceania Cruises first came together years ago, noting that the company vision was always rooted in creating the best dining at sea.

Celebrating Jacques in 2015   Celebrating Jacques in 2015

After some correspondence, Chef Pépin, personal chef to three French heads of state, invited Binder to his home to discuss the concept.“We made our fantasy list, and Jacques was at the top,” Binder said. “And quite honestly, we didn’t think we’d get him.”

 “We played boules, drank a few glasses of red wine and suddenly Jacques was on board,” Binder recalls. “He had never been interested in working with a cruise line before, but he thought it was a very unique concept – we wanted to use the best ingredients, and really be true to the regional cuisines in the areas we were sailing.”

Celebrating Jacques in 2015    Celebrating Jacques in 2015

That was just before the launch of Oceania Cruises.  Now, more than ten years later, Chef Pépin’s upcoming Signature Sailing honors the story of how the “finest cuisine at sea” began. It will feature exclusive cooking demonstrations, specially designed signature menus, celebratory events, book signings and more.

Celebrating Jacques in 2015Guests will even have a chance to take part in Chef Pépin's 80th birthday celebration. Binder notes that it’s sure to be a lively celebration, and any guests who have sailed with him in the past can attest – Chef Pépin loves a good fête and doesn’t shy away from karaoke!

We invite you to join Chef Pépin on Riviera’s 10-day Iberian Inspiration voyage next summer for exciting festivities, enriching discoveries in the best Mediterranean ports – and of course, unforgettable culinary experiences and the finest cuisine at sea.

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!

November 7, 2014

Behind the Scenes in Baristas: A Brief History of Espresso

Behind the Scenes in Baristas: A Brief History of Espresso Though undeniably old-world, espresso might actually have more in common with the origins of modern day tech gadgets like smartphones and GPS than you think. Far from a contemporary invention, rushing – and the search for a time-saving method – actually inspired a complete revolution in coffee during the 19th century. Coffeehouse patrons that simply didn’t have the luxury to sit and wait for coffee spurred an entirely new way of brewing and drinking coffee. Since coffee was the beverage of choice for those en route to work in the morning, most simply wanted a quick dose of caffeine they could down while standing up, and then be off. Unfortunately, the brewing process was quite slow, and didn’t nearly match the demand.

To speed up the brewing, inventors began experimenting with using steam in order to reduce the required brewing time. Often attributed with developing the method that led to modern day espresso, Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy secured a patent towards the end of the 19th century for an espresso machine that relied on steam. Unfortunately, steam-brewed coffee reportedly tasted fairly awful, since coffee typically needs to be brewed at just below boiling to taste its best. 

Behind the Scenes in Baristas: A Brief History of Espresso This machine was lost to history, but Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni entered the espresso scene, and evolved Moriondo’s design a few steps further. They used steam pressure instead to force water through the ground coffee. This resulted in the landmark single-shot espresso, which took mere seconds to brew. In fact, the word espresso itself refers to the precise and quick method of preparation, as opposed to the roasting method as many mistakenly believe. Pavoni then invented the pressure release valve, and the new machine was momentously introduced at the 1906 Milan Fair. The rest, as they say, is history.

Baristas-5Fast forward to the 21st century, and we’re still appreciating the benefits of these marvelous inventions by Bezzerra and Pavoni. Our very own espresso machine in Baristas, the gleaming brass San Marco La Preziosa, is actually rooted in this fascinating evolution, paying tribute to these revolutionary Italian inventions with its classic design. The next time you are at Baristas, embrace this time-honored tradition with a delicious cappuccino or espresso – only revel in the fact that you are quite in the opposite of a rush, enjoying a leisurely voyage free from the constraints of time. 

Baristas Baristas Barista's Onboard Insignia

November 5, 2014

Poll Results Just In: Your Favorite Cruise Regions

Our Facebook poll results are in – what’s the top cruise region? It was a close call, but one element was clear: our well-traveled guests embrace the diverse regions throughout the world. Votes were spread out across all regions. The top three regions with the most votes are below:

1. The Caribbean: Who can resist the turquoise waters and enchanting beaches throughout the Caribbean, especially with temperatures rapidly dipping? Plus, with Oceania Cruises, a voyage in the Caribbean is never just a typical Caribbean cruise. In case you missed it, discover some of our off-the-beaten-path ports in the Caribbean here.

Caribbean Caribbean

2. Eastern Mediterranean: The ancient empires and magic of the Old World enchant us all. From the Greek Isles and stunning ports along the Adriatic Sea to Istanbul and Egypt, the Eastern Mediterranean offers an escape unlike any other.

Emed3  Emed4

3. A tie –The Baltic and Western Mediterranean: The majesty of St. Petersburg and picturesque Baltic ports or the glittering French and Italian Rivieras and the alluring ports of Spain?  You don’t actually have to choose. Enjoy them both on an unforgettable Grand Voyage, like our Ultimate Europe voyage, sailing from Stockholm to Rome!

Wmed2  Wmed1

November 3, 2014

Q&A With Our Own Travel Industry Veteran, Nikki F. Upshaw

Nikki F. Upshaw, Oceania CruisesRecognized throughout the travel agent community as a creative and innovative leader with global experience, Nikki F. Upshaw has been with Oceania Cruises as Vice President of Field Sales since September of 2011. She notes that she was first attracted to Oceania Cruises for its great vision and potential for growth. Below our very own travel industry veteran shares her favorite regions to visit, where first-time cruisers should visit (it’s not where you might think!) and more.

As a cruise industry veteran, you must sail quite a bit. About how many cruises have you been on? I have sailed on over 50 cruises – but mostly for business. Somehow, I have not found the time to sail for vacation as much as I would like to!

What is your favorite region to visit?

Well, that’s a tough one since I have many favorites.  My top choice is the Mediterranean — specifically, the Eastern Mediterranean and sailing along the Adriatic. You can get a taste of Italy (and who doesn’t love Italy?) by starting in Venice, and then take in the stunning Adriatic coastline and visit Montenegro and Croatia with their historic walled cities, and then get a taste of Greece and Turkey.  

Italy Kotor Croatia

My second choice is South America and the breathtaking Chilean Fjords. I enjoy the vibrant cosmopolitan cities such as Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio with their fantastic architecture and visual appeal. Being able to enjoy those cities and then the rugged grandeur of the fjords along with the wildlife and an extended stay in Patagonia – it’s just the best of all worlds!  

Peru Fjords Patagonia

Which region would you recommend to someone going on a cruise for the first time?

Many would recommend something close to home for the first time, but my recommendation would be to go to a destination where visiting by ship really adds to the travel experience. Your first cruise should be to a region that can best be appreciated by sea – Alaska, the Norwegian Fjords or Greece.

Alaska Norway Greece


Hubbard GlacierWould your recommendation change for someone who has taken many cruises?

If you have sailed almost everywhere, I would encourage you to take a longer cruise which traverses various continents. Even if there are some areas you have already visited, it will allow you the opportunity to link history and learn the connection between cultures and civilizations.  

When is your next cruise, and to where?

I am hoping to take my children to Alaska next summer.