September 25, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 7: Exciting Entertainment

If you're an aficionado of the arts, you'll find Oceania Cruises’ entertainment captivating and personally satisfying. From Broadway-style productions and Bridge competitions to jazz night at Martinis and Team Trivia at Horizons, there are plenty of unique entertainment options available on our voyages.

This week, Curious Traveler host Christine van Blokland takes a look at the immense variety of entertainment aboard Riviera. Among her favorites were listening to the beautiful sounds of a classical string quartet fill the halls of the Grand Bar and learning about interesting Mediterranean insights at a guest lecture. 


Each ship features a unique line-up of onboard shows and entertainers, where no two voyages are ever entirely alike. For a list of entertainment options available during your voyage, please visit

The final Curious Traveler webisode will be unveiled next Friday, when Christine highlights our shore excursion collection, which offers insight into the culture, history and cuisine of each fascinating port we visit. To catch up on previous Curious Traveler webisodes, visit Oceania Cruises’ YouTube Channel.

September 21, 2015

Recipe: Crepes with Jam à la Pépin

The recipes of our Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin, always celebrate tradition. The dishes are filled with style, but yet are comforting and familiar. In his book, Essential Pépin, Jacques tells how he and his brother would sit and watch his mother prepare crepes, eating them as soon as they came out of the pan. He liked butter and jam, as well as chocolate sprinkles on occasion. So with this dish, we are recreating Jacques’ French childhood and those cozy afternoons in the kitchen!

Jp-post(serves 4)

Jacques’ crepes

3/4 cup flour

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon sugar

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon clarified butter or canola oil


Jam or preserves (strawberry, apricot, quince, blackberry, plum)

Grated chocolate

FOR THE CREPES: Combine the flour, eggs, sugar and a ¼ cup of the milk in a bowl (or blender) and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining milk, along with the butter, and mix until smooth. If using a blender, be certain not to over mix! Check that batter is the consistency of cream, and pour into a creamer for easy pouring into the pan.

Heat a nonstick 10-inch sauté pan or crepe pan over high heat. Brush the pan with just enough clarified butter or oil to lightly coat the pan. Pour about ¼ cup of crepe batter into the hot pan, quickly tilt the pan and swirl with your wrist to thinly and evenly distribute the crepe. When the crepe is lightly browned on one side, flip the crepe and brown the other side. Total cooking time will be about 30 seconds to one minute. Transfer the crepe to a plate and hold in a warm oven. Add more batter to the pan and repeat the process until all the crepes are finished, brushing the pan with more butter as needed.

TO SERVE: Fill the crepes with 2 teaspoons of jam or sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons grated chocolate. Fold the crepes in half and then in half again to form triangles. If you wish, garnish with powdered sugar. 

Join our special Pépin class at The Culinary Center to celebrate our Master Chef’s 80th birthday and learn more recipes like this one!

September 18, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 6: Elegant Accommodations

Our loyal guests experience the ultimate luxury of our spacious and elegant suites and staterooms with every extraordinary voyage, and this week, Curious Traveler host Christine van Blokland discovers exactly why our sophisticated accommodations are second to none. From the lavish amenities and rich fabrics to fine furnishings and original art, it’s easy to see why our suites and staterooms are a home away from home.

Eagerly awaiting your next voyage? You’ll be transported right back to your heavenly Prestige Tranquility Bed and your serene private teak veranda as you watch Curious Traveler webisode 6:  


Next week, Christine highlights the variety of onboard entertainment in the seventh installment of this eight-part series. Watch previous Curious Traveler webisodes by visiting Oceania Cruises’ YouTube Channel, and be sure to visit our blog every Friday as we continue to debut a new webisode until October 2nd.

To explore the fine amenities and luxurious comforts of our suites and staterooms, please visit

September 16, 2015

Five Fascinating Falls of South America & the Caribbean

While cruising to multi-faceted destinations in South America and the Caribbean, you don’t have to go looking for wondrous new experiences – they await you at every turn. Significant rainfall in lush tropical settings and emerald rainforests produce an immense amount of flowing water, creating cascades of majestic scenery. This winter, stand in awe at any of the memorable waterfalls below.

Iguazú Falls
Argentina & Brazil

Iguazú Falls
Iguazú Falls

One of the great natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the powerful Iguazú Falls spans the border between Argentina and Brazil at 80 meters high and 3 kilometers wide. The falls are made up of countless cascades that generate vast sprays of water producing one of the most spectacular waterfalls known to mankind.

Petrohué Falls
 Puerto Montt, Chile

 Petrohué Falls
Petrohué Falls

In the Lake District of Chile, hundreds of picturesque lakes and dozens of active volcanoes dominate the landscape which makes for a striking backdrop of the Petrohué Waterfalls, formed by the descent of the Petrohue River through the volcanic rock deposited there centuries ago.

Puma Waterfalls
Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

Puma Waterfalls
Puma Waterfalls - Photo Credit: Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure

Just outside of Limón, head to the Veragua Rainforest and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Trail of the Giants, named for the surrounding gigantic 300-year-old trees, before walking down to the spectacular 20-meter-high Puma Waterfalls.

Annandale Falls
St. George’s, Grenada

Annandale Falls
Annandale Falls

Enter an emerald paradise of rushing water and hanging ferns as you discover Annandale Falls just outside of St. George’s. Revel in the natural splendor and sounds of the falls and admire the surrounding species of tropical flowers, thriving plants and spices.

Trafalgar Falls
Roseau, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls
Trafalgar Falls

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Dominica by visiting the magnificent Trafalgar Falls. Stand in awe at the observation platform as you take in the amazing views of these twin falls, which are often referred to as "mother" and "father." The latter originates high in the mountains and eventually cascades into a hot mineral spring.

Diamond Waterfalls
Castries, St. Lucia

Diamond Waterfalls
Diamond Waterfalls

Located in the Diamond Falls Botanical Garden in Soufriere, the Diamond Waterfalls are considered one of the most colorful waterfalls in the Caribbean. The water contains a variety of minerals, giving the 17-meters-high falls a colorful appearance that seems to change often. Relax and take in the beauty and sultry warmth of the tropics as you stroll through lush fertile vegetation surrounding the spectacular Diamond Waterfall.

Visit any of the stunning waterfalls on a shore excursion during your Oceania Cruises voyage. To learn more about our extraordinary itineraries featuring the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, South America, Alaska Canada and New England, request a free copy of The Americas 2016 brochure

September 11, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 5: Culinary Discovery Tours

On this week’s Curious Traveler webisode, host Christine van Blokland puts her culinary skills to the test during our popular “What Mermaids Know” cooking class. Following a sequence of baking, poaching and sampling delicious varieties of fish in The Culinary Center, Christine joins Director of Culinary Enrichment and Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly on a Culinary Discovery Tour through Sicily, starting in Mercato del Pesce in Taormina, and later on a truffle hunt expedition in Slovenia. 

From learning how to make authentic Italian cannoli and a unique Sicilian lemon salad to a truffle luncheon and winery visit, Christine truly gets a taste of each Mediterranean locale with Oceania Cruises.


Join us again next Friday for the sixth installment of this eight-part series as Christine gets comfortable in our award-winning accommodations. Catch up on previous Curious Traveler webisodes by visiting Oceania Cruises’ YouTube Channel, and be sure to visit our blog every Friday as we continue to debut a new webisode until October 2nd

To learn more about The Culinary Center, and to view a full list of our cooking classes, please visit

September 9, 2015

Simmering Saigon

© Dr. John Freedman 2015

Simmering SaigonAs one of Oceania Cruises’ passionate guest lecturers, Dr. John Freedman thrives on sharing his in-depth knowledge of world history and international cultures while sailing around the globe. Combining his long career in medicine and fascination with faraway lands, Dr. Freedman has explored over 120 countries and been involved with numerous international medical volunteer programs and relief efforts. He is also an experienced expedition leader for university and museum educational travel programs, an accomplished travel photographer, and a much-followed travel blogger. With his lively presentation style, he is sure to bring our exotic destinations alive for you. Below, Dr. Freedman shares a snapshot of what makes Saigon such a special city. 

Simmering SaigonVietnam’s most vibrant city is not only on the short list of My Favorite Asian Cities – it’s also on the short list of My Favorite Cities Worldwide. It has a rich and emotionally involving history, friendly people, eminently walkable streets, unending diversity, a thriving economy assuring growth, and a local cuisine second to none. The ubiquitous pho (the city’s signature dish, an ultra-savory meal-in-a-bowl soup infused with fresh cut basil, chili and lime) is to me a metaphor for the city itself – always simmering day and night on every street corner, full of colorful ingredients, redolent of exotic spices, and offering something different in every spoonful.

Simmering SaigonThe city was officially re-named Ho Chi Minh City after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, but its historic name of Saigon has staying power – so you can use it without fear of political incorrectness.

Simmering SaigonThe area was first settled hundreds of years before the Vietnamese arrived, starting as the port town of Prei Nokor under the rule of ancient Cambodia’s Kings of Angkor. After falling under Vietnamese control in the late 17th century, it quickly became a bustling mercantile hub.
The hyper-industrious Viet people saw their city grow into the country’s largest city, both its major commercial center and gateway to the world.  Simmering SaigonThe French swiftly made Saigon the capital of their showcase Indochinese colony in the late 19th century, and today the city leverages the charming air of its “Indochine” aesthetic history with a rich heritage of French colonial architecture including the wedding cake City Hall, the General Post Office designed by Alfred Eiffel, the Franco-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Opera House – all within a leisurely walk of each other in the city’s central District 1.

Simmering SaigonThe French café spirit lives on too, offering the best coffee, baguettes, croissants and ice cream in Asia. The central district is home to the storied hotels of yesteryear like the Continental (1888), the Majestic (1925) and the Rex (1927) – all doing a brisker business than ever.

Simmering SaigonWithin a short stroll is Saigon’s iconic Reunification Palace – a 1960s-era structure which served as the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam’s leaders until it became the site where the Vietnam War decisively ended when a North Vietnamese tank bulldozed through the wrought iron front gate on April 30, 1975. The Cho Ben Thanh, one of Saigon’s largest and most interesting markets, is nearby, and Saigon’s energetic Chinatown is also just a short taxi ride away. Meanderings through the city take you to innumerable temples representing the region’s three major religions in all their syncretism: Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Simmering SaigonMeanwhile, just a few blocks from Saigon’s convenient downtown cruise port is the Bitexco Tower, a sleek skyscraper symbolizing Saigon’s headlong rush into the future – but surrounded by historic buildings which anchor it to its intriguing past. And while urban improvement projects continually emerge, the community is seeing to it that the city remains one of the most walkable in the world, from its French-style tree-lined boulevards to its quaint alleys perfect for “people-seeing.” “Simmering Saigon” is always a most welcome stop on any voyage to Asia!

Join Dr. Freedman in Saigon on this fascinating fall journey aboard Insignia:

Pagodas & Palaces | October 10, 2015

September 4, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 4: Enrichment Programs

Christine van Blokland, host of the Emmy Award-nominated Curious Traveler, gets an exclusive look at the seemingly infinite enrichment programs available aboard Riviera. Under the direction of Artist-in-Residence Annelein Beukenkamp, Christine channels her inner artist to paint a beautiful picture before taking a cooking class with Executive Chef & Culinary Enrichment Director Kathryn Kelly in The Culinary Center, the first hands-on cooking school at sea. From art and entertainment to culture and cuisine, the enrichment programs are perfect for any curious traveler.


Join us again next Friday for the fifth installment of this eight-part series as Christine joins a popular Culinary Discovery Tour in Slovenia. Be sure to visit our blog every Friday until October 2nd as we continue to debut a new webisode.

To learn more about the Oceania Cruises experience, including the enrichment programs, visit  

September 2, 2015

Recipe: Baked Chilean Sea Bass in Miso Sauce

This is the most requested fish recipe at Oceania Cruises, and is served in abundance at Red Ginger. It is so simple to make and relies heavily on the quality of the sea bass. Chilean sea bass is often farmed and has a healthy amount of fat, which makes it super tasty. While I like this marinade, it can be sweet and overpower the fish, so don’t marinate it too long or you won’t taste the sea bass. 

Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass(SERVES 6)

1 cup white miso paste

2/3 cup coarsely chopped palm sugar

1/2 cup dry sake

¼ cup mirin

6 center-cut sea bass fillets, 8 ounces each, boned and trimmed

6 large lime wedges

In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the miso paste, palm sugar, sake and mirin, and place over simmering water in the lower pan. As the mixture heats, whisk until the sugar and miso melt and the mixture is smooth. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Place the fish in a large air-tight plastic bag, pour in the marinade, press out any excess air, and seal the bag. Make sure the marinade is evenly distributed over the fillets. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator about 60 minutes before cooking and preheat the oven to 400° F.

Arrange the fish fillets in a single layer in a baking dish, leaving space between the fillets. Pour in enough of the marinade to reach one-fourth of the way up the sides of the fillets.

Place the fish in the oven and bake until fish is cooked and sauce caramelizes. Serve with lime wedges.  This fish is great with a coconut or jasmine rice.

Entertainment Tip: To make this before your dinner party, arrange the fish in the baking dish and make the marinade. When your guests arrive, pour the marinade on the fish and allow it all to come to room temperature (for about an hour). Preheat your oven to 400 o F and pop in the fish when you are ready. It dishes up beautifully if you bake it in a decorative oven-proof dish.  

August 31, 2015

A Honeymoon in Paradise

Newlyweds Jessica and Christopher C. celebrated their honeymoon aboard Marina, cruising through the flawless islands of French Polynesia on our Picturesque Polynesia itinerary. Below, Jessica shares her story.  

Sometimes when I let my mind wander, I am back on the linen white beaches of the South Pacific with a red flower in my hair, letting the sun nourish my skin and watching my husband Christopher lie by my side, consumed in sheer relaxation.

            A Honeymoon in Paradise       A Honeymoon in Paradise

They say most girls dream of their perfect wedding all their lives, but not me. I've always dreamt of my honeymoon. Having travelled on Oceania Cruises more than five times as a teenager and young adult with my grandparents, I knew I wanted to someday cruise through the picture-perfect French Polynesian islands with the love of my life.

Our spring wedding was nothing short of spectacular, though the months leading up to it were a blur of appointments and consultations. Exhausted from the preparations, we entrusted the gracious Oceania Cruises team with our honeymoon. Following our reception, we found ourselves in the most romantic part of the world, boarding the striking Marina for a roundtrip Tahiti voyage – ready to begin our very first adventure as newlyweds!

Honeymoon in Paradise

The itinerary included overnights in Tahiti and Bora Bora, with visits to Moorea, Raroia, Fakarava, Rangiroa, Raiatea and Huahine. Each morning, we’d part the blinds of our Penthouse Suite and discover a new breathtaking backdrop of lush, verdant mountains and glistening cerulean waters. And each evening, we watched the sun linger a little longer.

In Bora Bora, we opted for a romantic escape to InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. After a delicious lunch at Terrace Café, we were picked up from Vaitape and taken to the luxurious resort in Piti Au, a coral “motu” on the barrier reef. Our bungalow was superb, boasting dramatic views of the surrounding crystal waters. There were no schedules to follow or emails to check. It was as if time slowed and we were in a dream. Truly, the exquisite beauty could not have been part of this world.

             A Honeymoon in Paradise      A Honeymoon in Paradise

Fakarava was our favorite island for its botanical beauty and pristine atmosphere. We rented bikes from a jovial French man and explored the island on wheels, picking up fresh fruits and cheeses for lunch.

A Honeymoon in ParadiseWe raced around curved paths, rode past an unfinished lighthouse, collected small shells and enjoyed a picnic on the beach.

While in Raiatea, we boarded a boat and headed toward its sister island, Taha’a, for a drift snorkeling experience. Nothing prepared me for the scores of colorful tropical fish and intensely hued coral that produced a magnificent underwater maze. 

As the current carried us effortlessly through the shallow lagoon, I wished for this moment, drifting in an untouched paradise, to last forever.  

August 28, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 3: Gourmet Specialty Restaurants

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


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

To learn more about our specialty dining restaurants, visit  

August 26, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat Virgin

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat VirginBy Sandy Cares

Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her entertaining lectures aboard Oceania Cruises voyages throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, she shares her experience in Virgin Gorda.

I should not play favorites. So when people ask which is my favorite Caribbean destination, I always say, “Wherever we are today,” and I truly mean it. But I must admit that when back home in Michigan, I conjure up visions of the most idyllic Caribbean island of all: Virgin Gorda.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat VirginThe laid-back, charmingly rustic British Virgin Isles abounds in beauty.    

In 1493 on his second New World voyage, Christopher Columbus sailed through a constellation of islands and named the whole lot the Virgin Islands after St. Ursula's 11,000 legendary virginal bridesmaids. One standout stole his heart. Its voluptuous silhouette resembled a maiden slumbering serenely on her Caribbean waterbed. He named it Virgin Gorda, the Fat Virgin.

Less than nine square miles and home to fewer than 4,000 locals, Virgin Gorda boasts world-class ultra-luxury properties like Little Dix Bay and Biras Creek. But hands-down, the Fat Virgin’s biggest draw is a geological curiosity called The Baths.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat VirginThe day we arrive, an open-air jitney conveys us from Spanish Town to the bluff over The Baths National Park at the island’s southernmost tip. A footpath leads down to the beach and along the way gnarled roots and slippery rocks are the playground for tropical birds, mongooses, and iguanas. Eventually the path spills onto a beach with diaphanous aquamarine water.

The house-sized boulders strewn about the beach confirm volcanic origins. These gigantic rock piles form caverns and hidden passages that secrete haunting lagoons. A driftwood sign stuck in the sand points to "The Grotto," a huge cavern beneath a jumble of boulders where the world darkens and the unremitting slosh and gurgle of water echoes.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat VirginWe grasp guide ropes as we slide across an enormous bosom of rock to begin the forty-five minute crawl to the other side. The obstacle course requires calculated calisthenics as it winds through tight passages, beneath rock overhangs, across scaffolding and through sandy puddles.

Finally, we scale a platform and shimmy between a couple more boulders where we escape to the white sand. Once my eyes re-adjust to the brightness, I head straight for the water—unbelievably refreshing!

However you decide to savor your visit to the Caribbean, the Fat Virgin will steal your heart. After all, she's been doing it for five hundred years and counting.

Join Sandy’s lectures in the Caribbean this December:

Sands & Shores | December 2, 2015
Mayan Mystique | December 12, 2015
Celebrate the Sunshine | December 22, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Skinny on the Fat Virgin

August 24, 2015

At Sea & Staying in Shape

At Sea & Staying in ShapeDuring a recent voyage aboard Insignia, New York native Marissa M. found plenty of ways to take advantage of the days at sea and stay active. She shares her experience and a few of her favorite fitness classes below.

For many of us, taking a vacation also means taking time off from your workout routine–but it doesn’t have to! Starting your workout routine again after a week or two off can feel like starting from scratch, so on my recent voyage, the first thing I looked for were ways to stay active.

Once I unpacked, I went straight to the fitness center in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, where I found that a half hour on the elliptical or treadmill with serene ocean views made my workout go by in a breeze!

At Sea & Staying in ShapeThe class schedule for my cruise had so many classes to choose from that I realized I wasn’t going to have any trouble finding ways to help me stay on track. There are classes for everyone! They have everything from low-intensity workouts like yoga, all the way to high-intensity aerobic classes.

I loved the Stretch and Relax class, which focused on yoga-like and sports stretches, while using breathing techniques to assist and increase flexibility, plus improve the overall mind-body connection. This was a wonderful way to start a day.

I also took the Cardio Groove class, which definitely got my heart beating and my body moving. It’s a medium-paced aerobics class, which mixes new music and classic oldies that will make you dance the class away. Lots of laughs during this one!

To indulge my adventurous side one morning, I took the Cardio Combat class which is a high-energy class that mixes aerobic steps with hand combinations taken from boxing and martial arts training. Plus it’s mixed with upbeat music for a fun, stress-relieving class that actually left me wanting to go one more round.

At Sea & Staying in ShapeOne other great class that helps you stay ahead of the group while on shore excursions is the Muscle Max class. This class uses your body weight, resistance bands and hand weights to tone and strengthen the muscles important for everyday activities, increase overall strength and protect the joints.

I really enjoyed mixing my own workout routine with the 30 minute fitness classes. I especially enjoyed the yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes; they were worth every penny.

It’s great being able to work out while visiting so many interesting places and best of all I didn’t feel guilty about having dessert or that extra glass of wine after a delicious dinner.

August 21, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 2: Finest Cuisine at Sea

Curious Traveler, an Emmy Award-nominated program, is spotlighting Oceania Cruises in a series of exciting webisodes. This week, host Christine van Blokland gets a taste of the finest cuisine at sea – from exquisite Asian fusion and traditional steakhouse dishes to authentic Italian recipes and classic French Fare.


Christine, a premier travel journalist and arts and culture enthusiast, was drawn to Oceania Cruises for its renowned cuisine, alluring destinations and casually elegant ambiance filled with museum-quality art.

Join us again next Friday for the third webisode in this eight-part series as Christine visits our award-winning specialty restaurants. Be sure to visit our blog every Friday until October 2nd as we continue to debut a new webisode.

View sample menus and wine lists of the finest cuisine at sea.

August 19, 2015

11th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise Highlights & Memories

From left: Neli Arias, Joan Moran, Margaret Lawton, James Rodriguez, and Linda & Pino Minelli share an OLife moment
From left: Neli Arias, Joan Moran, Margaret Lawton, James Rodriguez, and Linda & Pino Minelli share an OLife moment

By Neli Arias, Manager of Loyalty Marketing

The Oceania Club Reunion Cruise is always an exciting voyage that I look forward to planning and celebrating, and this year’s was another tremendous success. James Rodriguez, Senior Vice President of Sales & Chief Marketing Officer, and I had the privilege of hosting nearly 500 loyal guests ranging from Blue Level to Platinum Level on the Artistic Discoveries voyage sailing from Venice to Barcelona aboard beautiful Riviera. 

From left: James, Sheri Wells, Alex Schlich and Judy Frantz
From left: James, Sheri Wells,
Alex Schlich and Judy Frantz

Once the guests were settled in, we hosted a welcome cocktail reception in the Sanctuary on Deck 14, complete with a stunning sunset as the backdrop. We savored delicious canapés and fresh cocktails accompanied by live music as we sailed away from Koper, Slovenia.

The next day, we  toured Zadar, including a visit to the Bibich Winery. We were all quite impressed with Croatia – truly breathtaking and much more than just a burgeoning travel destination.

Neli and James with Jack & Leah Cohen and Bill & Rhoda Baker
Neli and James with Jack & Leah Cohen and Bill & Rhoda Baker

This year, we were happy to host a number of Bronze-Level Members – so many, in fact, that we held a special dinner in Toscana. It was a jovial evening with plenty of Prosecco, pasta and great conversation.

James and I also hosted our Platinum- and Gold-Level Members at La Reserve where we enjoyed the seven-course Connoisseur Menu, and later in the cruise we hosted our Silver-Level Members, delighting in the seven-course Discovery Menu.

Neli hosting Oceania Club Members at La Reserve
Neli hosting Oceania Club
Members at La Reserve

I was able to hear so many stories and adventures from our guests over exquisite Champagne and wine – some of which are quite rare – all paired with truly artful dishes.

In Florence,  we toured the private Vasari Corridor in the Uffizi Gallery, which showcases a unique collection of 16th- and 17th-century artwork. Then we sat down for a traditional Italian luncheon with bruschetta, pasta, chicken on a bed of arugula, plus a warm custard for dessert, all accompanied by flowing wine!

Shelley Goldstein (left) with General Manager Damien Lacroix
Shelley Goldstein (left) with
General Manager Damien Lacroix

Our Oceania Club reception in Horizons was another highlight. The senior officers, James and I honored the milestones of several of our past guests. There were cocktails, relaxing music and gorgeous views – a very happy, celebratory evening for all.

It was such a privilege to meet so many of our loyal guests and hear about their wonderful experiences with Oceania Cruises. James & I look forward to seeing many of you on board again very soon!

August 18, 2015

Unspoiled Alaska | Q & A with Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague

Unspoiled Alaska | Q & A with Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague recently visited the captivating land of Alaska. Though Jason has traveled throughout the world, this was the first time he took a step back and let nature vaunt its many wonders. From the breathtaking scenery of Juneau to the grandiose glaciers surrounding the Inside Passage, Jason described Alaska’s natural beauty in one word, majestic.

What was your initial reaction to the landscape in Alaska and what were the reactions of your family members?

Surprisingly, this was our first time to Alaska. My wife, son and I have traveled all over the world, visiting major iconic cities and exploring remnants of ancient civilizations, but we’ve never been to Alaska before.  It was absolutely amazing; I’ve never experienced such majestic and vast landscapes.

Though we may not be traditional outdoor people, we certainly got into the Alaskan spirit and enjoyed adventures such as fishing, camping in the wilderness, rock climbing and dog sledding on Mendenhall Glacier. These aren’t our typical vacation activities, but this was refreshing – we loved every minute of it.    

Unspoiled Alaska | Q & A with Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague What were your top 3 favorite ports?

It’s a bit difficult to play favorites – they’re all quite unique in their own way. Skagway was intriguing; it has such a spectacular natural setting and its gold rush history is so well-preserved.  The beauty of Alaska is in the layers of experiences it offers –there’s so much nature, history and culture to immerse yourself in each port.

Describe your experience cruising past the magnificent Hubbard Glacier.

I woke up a little late that morning and when I parted the blinds, Hubbard Glacier towered just beyond our balcony – or so it seemed.  You don’t quite grasp how immense it is until you’re cruising right next to it. We didn’t happen to hear any glaciers calving, but that’s another reason why I need to return. 

What was the most memorable shore excursion?

Without a doubt, it was taking a helicopter ride up to Mendenhall Glacier and mushing a dog sled — truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

        Unspoiled Alaska | Q & A with Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague      Unspoiled Alaska | Q & A with Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague

Did you see any exciting wildlife?

The wildlife seems to emerge everywhere; you never know when you’ll see a whale, a bald eagle or even a bear. During one excursion we witnessed orca whales and watched as sea otters wrestled and played.  At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Seward, we walked alongside a brown bear for about 50 yards – fortunately, there was a fence separating us, though it was certainly surreal. My son was fascinated; he just loved it.

Are you planning to explore the last frontier aboard Oceania Cruises’ Regatta next summer? View a list of exciting voyages.

August 14, 2015

Curious Traveler Webisode 1: Indulge in OLife™

Curious Traveler, an Emmy-award-nominated television program, is spotlighting Oceania Cruises in a series of exciting webisodes highlighting the sophisticated OLife experience.

Host Christine van Blokland, a premier travel journalist and arts and culture enthusiast, was drawn to Oceania Cruises for its renowned cuisine, alluring destinations and casually elegant ambiance filled with museum quality art.

In the first websiode, Christine takes you behind the scenes for a closer look at the true elements of OLife. 


Join us again next Friday for the second webisode as Christine gets a taste of the finest cuisine at sea. And remember, mark your calendar for every Friday as we debut a new webisode in this eight-part series through October 2nd.

Experience the OLife yourself with these once-in-a-lifetime voyages:

Rome to Istanbul | 12 days | Nautica | September 22, 2015 – October 4, 2015

Venice to Barcelona | 11 days | Riviera | November 7, 2015 – November 18, 2015

Hong Kong to Bangkok | 20 days | Nautica | January 24, 2016 – February 13, 2016

Mumbai to Istanbul | 17 days | Nautica | April 11, 2016 – April 28, 2016

August 12, 2015

A Day in Cephalonia: Lake Melissani, Meze & Ouzo

Cephalonia viewThe largest of the Ionian Islands, Cephalonia is filled with rolling mountains, seaside cliffs, unique geological formations and small villages. One of our unique shore excursions, Lake Melissani, Meze & Ouzo (available from Argostoli, Cephalonia) gives you the perfect taste of this gorgeous Greek island.

Departing from the pier for Lake Melissani, the drive offers stunning views of the sea and the rugged landscape. Continuing towards the eastern edge of the island, the roads wind through dry, mountainous terrain and the ever-changing views sweep from sheer cliffs and rocky outcroppings to green valleys and tiny fringes of beach that slope into the perfectly blue Ionian Sea.

Melissani - insideCephalonia has long been renowned for its many unusual geological formations and one of its most notable is beautiful Lake Melissani, a subterranean sea lake created thousands of years ago. Upon arrival to the lake, you’ll enter a tunnel and immediately see the stunning aquamarine water sparkling in the sunlight ahead. Notably, the water is a mix of saltwater from the Ionian Sea and freshwater that originated in Argostoli and then flowed across the island to reach this lake.

Entering the lake by small boat, you’ll notice the jagged walls rise steeply, causing every sound to echo – even the slight paddling of water by the oars. Dramatic stalactites hang from the ceiling, and the only light streams down from one hundred feet above, imbuing the cavern-like interior with a soft glow that’s magical.

Also known as the Cave of Nymphs, Melissani Lake was named after Melissanthi, a nymph from Greek mythology who drowned herself because the God Pan didn’t reciprocate her love. First explored in 1951, the lake was the site of important Minoan relics, including a clay figure of Pan and clay plates depicting nymphs, which are now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli.

          Melissani - oar   Melissani tunnel   Cephalonia seaside restaurant

After a refreshing boat tour of the lake, you’ll stop at a picturesque waterfront restaurant in the village of Sami to enjoy traditional meze, a selection of small dishes that may include calamari, hummus, cheese pie and meat balls. There’s also ouzo, the classic licorice-flavored Greek liqueur or perhaps a refreshing glass of crisp white wine. After a memorable afternoon, now it’s time to simply sit back, relax and take in it all in, the gorgeous Ionian sea stretching out before you.

Spend an unforgettable day on Cephalonia and visit Lake Melissani this fall:

Riviera’s Roman Pathways voyage, departing October 23
Riviera’s Isles & Empires voyage, departing October 30

August 10, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Wine, Wonders & Whimsy in Chile

1With a horticultural career spanning four decades, Dr. Ken Beattie has become one of Canada’s most notable and approachable resources in the plant world. He has developed award-winning television programs including the documentary series, “The Earth’s Garden,” and also served as host of the live, Canadian television series, “Get Growing.” Below Ken shares a glimpse of the unique Chilean landscape, brimming with surprises.

Chile is an amazing place, offering a banquet for the senses and provender aplenty for stimulating conversation. How would I describe this country? A lengthy ribbon of mountains, abrupt shorelines, magnificent plants and cultures with roots deep in a mysterious past.

2Our stunning one-week voyage took us from Lima, Peru to Ushuaia on the Argentine border of Tierra del Fuego. To my delight, from the Pacific coast vantage, Chile was unbelievably beautiful and became more outstanding each day. Perhaps my most wondrous and thought-provoking find was in a tiny museum in Iquique, Chile: several well-preserved human mummies. Ten-thousand-year-old mummified human remains are still unearthed with incredible regularity from the Atacama Desert regions. These remains pre-date the Inca Empire by 6,000 years. The most famous of these finds were the Chinchorro mummies first unearthed by workers near Arica, Chile on the harsh desert coastline.

WineMeanwhile, the overall look of northern Chile was stark and desert-like, including abrupt landscapes jutting out of the Pacific with very little evidence of plants — in particular, grapes. Chile is known for its wine industry, which I was primed to sample. When in doubt, check with the excursion desk, or in my case, the senior sommelier onboard. The bustling coastal city of Valparaiso offered great hope as we ventured ashore with directions and a shopping list from the sommelier.

The landscape had changed dramatically, offering a “Vancouver-like” feel. Our map and directions took us to the very popular city region of Viña del Mar. As implied there was viña — or better yet, vino and a whole lot of mar. Robust reds abound with Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignons leading the pack – according to my taste buds. Oceania Cruises is known for its extensive wine list and as we travelled the wine country, the list expanded to feature several unusual vintages. I have a female vintner who plies her skills in the much publicized regions of southern France, and she once told me in a hushed whisper her best reds come from her vineyards in Chile! Chilean wines are not to be missed.

Sailing further south, the weather suited our latitude in mid-February, cool with steady winds laden with salt mist. The magnificent fjord lands started for us in the tiny city of Puerto Montt, continued to Punta Arenas and then on to the spectacular region of Patagonia. Just saying the name “Patagonia” brought excitement to my voice.

4Onward, Ushuaia is a city reminiscent of Jasper, Alberta. Straddling the Argentine border, it boasts the status of the most southern city. Charles Darwin sailed these waters on the famous Beagle of which the channel bears the name. He and his crew actually charted most of our itinerary, journaling the diversity of flora and fauna of this great southern continent. This was another thrill to sense – I was on a journey that one of my champions travelled almost two centuries ago.

The great Southern Beech forests must have impressed Darwin, along with the bizarre Araucaria, or Monkey Puzzle, trees. Many of the plants in the furthest points south exhibit unusual floral structures and have unique adaptations to ensure pollination and survival under adverse climatic conditions.

6Fuchsia abounded, as did Barberry and a vast array of mosses and ferns, many which bear the names of explorers such as Magellan and Darwin. Fascinating, breathtaking and awe-inspiring are descriptors I use when asked to describe the area and my experience.

Once again, Oceania Cruises offered top-notch service and one of the most enticing itineraries I have ever taken. It was overflowing with excellent excursion choices, interesting ports that many ships can’t navigate and the hallmark “family” crew who spoil us time and time again. Gracias, mi amigos! 

August 7, 2015

Medieval Marvels in Kotor

Sail inGuests Jim & Sandy K. from Fort Collins, Colorado recently sailed aboard Riviera’s Isles & Empires voyage, and shared one of their most memorable experiences during the cruise – hikin g to the hilltop fortress in Kotor, Montenegro.

Before you even reach the harbor of Kotor, you begin to realize why it’s been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dramatically situated within the deepest channel of the Bay of Kotor, and ringed by impressive mountains, the sail in was breathtaking. The Bay of Kotor is often referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord, and though not technically a fjord, the surrounding vistas of massive green slopes, narrow passageways and tiny villages were unforgettable.

From the ship, we could just barely make out the walls snaking along the mountain of San Giovanni which we planned to hike along to reach the fortress by the same name. The steep hike up to the fortress ascends nearly 4,000 feet via 1,350 steps. After an amazing dinner at Toscana the night before, we were ready!

Walls city viewJuly may not be ideal to hike up to the fortress – the temperature was in the low 90s – but my wife and I love to hike and are used to the heat in Colorado, so we armed ourselves with plenty of water and set out. We paid a few Euros at the entrance gate, and began the ascent. After just a few switchbacks, we were already taken aback by the views – postcard perfect.

Riviera viewAlong the way, we stopped for plenty of photos, taking in the sweeping vistas of the Bay of Kotor, Old Town (Stari Grad) and of course the beautiful Riviera. In surprisingly good condition, the walls were started in the 9th century and are a unique example of fortification architecture in Europe. By the 14th century the protective circle was completed, but the walls were added to until the18th century.

Kotor walls Bay of Kotor viewAs we continued on, we discovered numerous citadels, gates, bastions, lookouts and other sites – all testament to the turbulent history of Kotor, and offering us a chance to explore and get some unique photos. Before we reached the fortress, we came to a small church, Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which was built in 1518 by survivors of the plague and became a site of pilgrimage. The perfect place to pause and appreciate the moment.

Forging on, the panoramas around every corner continued to amaze us and by the time we reached the top it was mid-afternoon. The bird’s eye views were incredible. The crowning fortress that sprawled out before us contained traces of the Illyrian civilization and once housed soldiers that defended the city. The flag of Montenegro was blowing in the wind, and from a shady spot on the opposite side of the fortress, we mused on what a special day it’d been so far.

                Montenegro flag      Hike up

On the way back down, the breeze cooled us a bit more as we talked about how we were going to reward ourselves – with tall, cold drinks and a hearty bite to eat at one of the restaurants in Old Town. Just another day with Oceania Cruises. 

Birds eye view

August 5, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Marooned on Roatan Island

Guest Lecturer Post: Marooned on Roatan IslandBy Sandy Cares

Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her engaging and entertaining lectures aboard Oceania Cruises voyages throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, she shares the fascinating story of an 18th century castaway on Roatan Island. 

This little cigar-shaped island lying about 30 miles from Honduras and home to about 60,000 “islanders,” was discovered by Columbus in 1503 and subsequently possessed by pirates, the British, and finally Honduras since 1859.  Upwards of half a million cruisers visit this little island yearly, mostly to take advantage of the unsurpassed diving and snorkeling opportunities, but what many don’t know is that in 1722 Roatan Island was home to a castaway: a castaway without shoes that self-exiled in order to escape the atrocities aboard a pirate ship where he was captive. 

Guest Lecturer Post: Marooned on Roatan IslandDuring a shore adventure with guests from the elegant Insignia, our local guide took us around to some of the highlights of the little island that is roughly about thirty miles long and five miles wide. And as a stunning view of the famous barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Reef, came into view, I found myself wondering what life was like on Roatan Island in the days of Philip Ashton.  

The story goes that Philip Ashton was a young Puritan man catching cod off the coast of Nova Scotia in his uncle’s sloop. On a quiet Sunday when he and his crew of cousins were sitting around enjoying some coffee and a well-earned rest, an unidentified ship hove into view. Before they knew what was happening, that ship grappled onto theirs and suddenly they were taken over by a gang of pirates. 

When Ashton found out the pirate ship belonged to the nefarious Edward “Ned” Low, he knew his days were numbered. Ned Low was one of the most insidious pirates plying the waters between North America and the Caribbean. It wasn’t long before Pirate Low tried to recruit Ashton into the “Brethren of the Coast” but Ashton rebuffed his overtures and vowed he would escape Low’s clutches at any cost.  

Guest Lecturer Post: Marooned on Roatan IslandThe ship sailed over twenty-five hundred miles from Nova Scotia into the Western Caribbean where it stopped at Roatan to top off with fresh water and local fruit. It was there that Ashton impulsively joined a crew going to fetch water. His plan was to escape into the jungle – and in his haste, he forgot his shoes, a move he would sorely regret for the next two years!

 Completely alone at Roatan, Ashton survived on turtle eggs cooked in the hot sun.  Plagued by mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums, he spent his days floating on reeds until a shark nearly took him under. Nearly two years after his ordeal began, Ashton was miraculously rescued from Roatan, only to find his rescue ship smack in the crosshairs of none other than Ned Low! Fortunately, they dodged that bullet and Ashton was safely conveyed back to New England where he lives on in the local lore as the “Robinson Crusoe of Marblehead Massachusetts.” 

I emerge from my reverie looking forward to an icy glass of tropical fruit punch and refreshing dip in the palm-fringed beach. We are at Las Palmas, one of the many beautiful seaside resorts that grace Roatan Island’s picturesque shoreline.  Mere steps from where the barefoot Philip Ashton spent nearly two years almost three hundred years ago, but worlds apart in circumstances. How lucky we are!    

August 3, 2015

Jacques Pépin’s Sweet Cheese Medley & Champagne on Fruit Rocks

From gingerbread cookies and delicious desserts to egg nog and fine wine, the holiday season is quickly approaching with all of its palatable glory, and it’s never too early to start planning. For the endless holiday celebrations, we pair two of Oceania Cruises Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin’s recipes perfect for entertaining friends and family.

Jacques Pépin’s Sweet Cheese MedleyJacques Pépin’s Sweet Cheese Medley

(Makes about 30 appetizers)

½ pound assorted cheeses (such as feta, blue, Gouda, Gruyère, or Camembert), room temperature

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (see tips)

1/3 cup dark raisins (soaked in port, if desired)

1/3 cup honey

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher or sea salt (optional)

1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Cut or crumble the cheeses into pieces about ¼ to ½ inch in size. Place in a medium bowl.

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly and watching to ensure they do not burn.

Add the pumpkin seeds, raisins, honey, and lime juice to the cheeses. Stir to combine. Season to taste with pepper and salt, keeping in mind that salty cheeses may not need any additional salt.

Serve on top of toasted baguette slices.

Jacques Pépin’s Champagne on Fruit RocksJacques Pépin’s Champagne on Fruit Rocks

(serves 4)       

1 (12-ounce) package frozen unsweetened raspberries

½ cup blackberry preserves

1 bottle sparkling wine

Defrost the raspberries overnight in the refrigerator. 

Pass the berries and preserves through a food mill. If you want seedless ice cubes, pass the fruit through a fine mesh strainer after the food mill. You should have about 1 1/3 cup of berry purée. Pour the purée into ice cube trays and freeze overnight (see tips). Once frozen, remove the cubes from the tray, place them in a freezer bag, and keep frozen until ready to use.

About 30 minutes before serving, place 2 to 3 cubes into each of 4 glasses. Place the glasses in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or on the counter for 15 minutes to soften the cubes. Pour the sparkling wine over the cubes and enjoy.

July 31, 2015

Around the World 2015 in Photos

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give,
to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.”
-Hans Christian Andersen

Many of our guests recently returned from our first Around the World voyage – a true journey of a lifetime. From magnificent cities and quaint coastal towns to soaring mountains and island paradises, Insignia explored a stunning range of the world’s greatest treasures on one unforgettable voyage.

Guests enjoyed ample time to explore each fascinating destination ashore and indulged in all of the comfortable amenities onboard during tranquil days at sea.

Below are a selection of photos highlighting a few of the special moments during this extraordinary journey.

Photos courtesy of David Smith

Insignia | Huahine, French Polynesia

Insignia | Huahine, French Polynesia

Marquesas, French Polynesia

Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Huahine, French Polynesia

Huahine, French Polynesia


 Cruise Director Andy Heath, Guest Lecturer David Smith with Insignia Photo Contest Winners


Insignia | Huatulco Port

1940s event on the Battleship USS Missouri | Honolulu, Hawaii

(Photos courtesy of Atlantic Adventure)

1940s event on the Battleship USS Missouri | Honolulu, Hawaii  1940s event on the Battleship USS Missouri | Honolulu, Hawaii

1940s event on the Battleship USS Missouri | Honolulu, Hawaii  1940s event on the Battleship USS Missouri | Honolulu, Hawaii

July 27, 2015

Around the World 2017 - Extraordinary Adventures Await

Oceania Cruises invites you to experience one of travel’s most time-honored traditions: circumnavigating the globe by sea, with our new 180-day Around the World Cruise aboard Insignia. Scheduled to depart on January 6, 2017, the voyage is the fourth in a series of epic globetrotting adventures and represents the longest and most comprehensive world cruise itinerary in the entire industry.


Embarking on an exciting new route in 2017, Insignia takes her cue from the sun and sails west, chasing balmy days and endless sapphire seas. Departing the Caribbean via the iconic Panama Canal, Insignia charts the legendary Pacific Riviera before bringing you to the golden shores of the Hawaiian Islands, dramatically framed by velvety green mountaintops. Further south, relax on stunning French Polynesian beaches and explore some of Australia and New Zealand’s most alluring destinations.

Sydney   Hawaii

Arriving in Asia, immerse yourself in the rare spirit of Bali, the thronging night bazaars of Hong Kong, and the temples of Rangoon and Mumbai. Stroll among the opulent wonders of Abu Dhabi and the ancient treasures of Israel and Egypt before taking in the masterpieces and monuments of several classic Mediterranean destinations. After leisurely days on the high seas, close your epic voyage with a grand exploration of Canada and New England’s most charming harbors and celebrated cities.

Bali   India

For those with a passion for exploring the far corners of the globe, Around the World 2017 is an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the very best your world has to offer. Guests reserving this journey will receive 2 for 1 Cruise Fares with Free First Class Roundtrip Airfare* and Bonus Value of up to 71%. They will also enjoy the Exclusive Prestige Package. 

Reserve your space on the Around the World 2017 voyage now!

July 20, 2015

Q&A with Travel Industry Veteran Ana Parodi: Mediterranean Favorites

AnaParodiWith more than 27 years of experience in the cruise industry, our Vice President of National Accounts, Ana Parodi, has spent plenty of time at sea and traveling around the world. It all began with a cruise at the age of 15, and by now Ana can’t quite remember how many times she’s visited the Mediterranean, but it remains one of her favorites to explore.

Below, Ana shares her top picks throughout the Mediterranean for cuisine, history, art and more.

SantoriniWhat are your favorite destinations for food and cuisine?
Barcelona is one of my favorites – there’s such a range of food, and it’s so cosmopolitan. There’s a particular place I always try to go back to – it’s called Los Caracoles. It really gives you a taste of Spain. It’s down a small little alley, and as soon as you enter you see the small little pork roasting. The interior is decorated with traditional Spanish tiles and they have live entertainment. They make the best seafood dishes that I’ve had.

And then in Santorini, which I just love, you have all of the cafes overlooking the sea. The squid is amazing, and the white wines are incredible. The setting is breathtaking – being able to sit and enjoy a meal while you look out upon this beautiful sea. And the sunsets in Santorini are to die for.

EphesusWhat are your top picks for historical destinations?
Definitely Ephesus. If you take a tour, you can really imagine the society and the way people lived. The civilization was so advanced during this time period. You can relate to it and understand the organization - there’s a library, a central shopping area, a living area and so on. You can also visit a street in Ephesus that Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony walked down which is fascinating.

Having an opportunity to travel to Egypt and visit the Valley of the Kings with King Tut’s tomb is also remarkable. I remember going into one of the temples and discovering there was actually a room devoted to recipes for perfumes! In Cairo, the Egyptian Museum is unbelievable. It showcases so many original artifacts m you can actually see King Tut’s throne. All of these details about the culture that come alive when you visit are just incredible.

SistineChapelWhere do you recommend for art?
There’s so many! Rome – of course you have to see the masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel. And then in Barcelona, the Sagrada Família is an experience – it’s really special to see the immensity of a project that has now been going on for over a hundred years. And then if you can do one of our land tours to Madrid, the museum El Prado is a must!

What keeps you going back to the Mediterranean?
There’s a different feeling in the air when you get there. People enjoy life in a different way than we do here. The culture – and the priorities in life – are different from the way we live here in the U.S. It’s more about enjoying time with friends and family, enjoying a good bottle of wine and good food. There’s also just so much to learn from the region, so many historic places – and there’s always somewhere more to visit that you haven’t been.

July 17, 2015

Caveat Emptor: All About Truffles by Chef Kelly

My most rewarding and memorable days are always spent in local markets with our guests – from Helsinki to Istanbul, Hobart to Tortola, Athens to Amsterdam. There is so much to be learned in these markets (and from these farmers) about the seasonality of food, and the joy of travel for many of our guests is learning the authentic cuisine, ingredients, wines, food traditions and culinary Truffles-closeuptechniques of the places we travel. Our Culinary Discovery Tours always begin with a 30-minute immersion into what’s truly unique about the cuisine we’ll investigate that day.

On a recent Culinary Discovery Tour in Slovenia, we had the chance to observe an authentic truffle hunt for their prized spring black truffle. The handler – and his dogs – were informative hosts, Truffles-dogshowing us the base of the trees where the truffles grow beneath the surface (like underground fungus). The dogs sniff out the truffle and the handler delicately removes it with a special shovel.

Guests frequently ask me if they should buy truffle oil when we visit markets in the north of Italy, south of France and here in Slovenia. Unfortunately, I have to tell them no because truffle oil is actually a perfumed oil and contains no truffles. With the exception of a few artisans, truffle oil is no more than a mid-grade oil with a compound called 2,4 dithiapentane added to produce the aroma of the truffle.

Truffles-pastaAs a chef, my inclination is to encourage our guests to refrain from the truffle oil and taste a fresh truffle when in season (at your favorite restaurant or online seasonally at D’Artagnan). Fresh truffles are typically shaved with a truffle slicer into paper thin shavings and placed on top of carpaccio, risotto, pasta and my personal favorite, scrambled eggs.

SilverTrident-wineIf you are fortunate enough to purchase a white truffle in season, here’s my recipe for a decadent midnight supper. Since my birthday is during white Alba truffle season, these eggs have become a tradition for me! This year to make it a true Oceania Cruises moment, I’ll pair my eggs with a glass of Silver Trident Cabernet.




1 tablespoon unsalted butter

8 farm fresh eggs, mixed but not whipped

1 teaspoon freshly snipped chives

Maldon salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1 white truffle

In a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter is melted, pan is at medium heat and eggs are room temperature, add the eggs.

Stirring constantly with your favorite wooden spoon on medium heat, cook the eggs. Be careful not to let the eggs set, continually stirring. When eggs start to solidify, add the chives. Keep stirring.

Be careful not to overcook the eggs. They should be creamy and just curdled. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and white pepper to your taste. Shave just a few truffle sliced on top – remember that white truffle are quite strong. (Save your remaining truffle to shave over risotto!). Enjoy!

July 15, 2015

Discover a World of Pearls

Discover a World of PearlsWith stunning turquoise beaches and breathtaking surroundings, Rangiroa is a “natural aquarium” brimming with colorful undersea life and farms boasting an impressive production of delicate pearls.  

While visiting Rangiroa during your South Pacific cruise next winter, get an exclusive look at pearl cultivation with our Discover a World of Pearls shore excursion.

Drive along Rangiroa's main road, on your way to a black pearl farm. Most pearl farms are small, and the number of workers at this Rangiroa farm is quite representative of the farms in the South Pacific region.

Upon arrival, the staff will teach you about the farming and production of black pearls. Get an inside look at the chronology and evolution of the industry, and how oysters are selected, grown and then grafted for production. Then, proceed to the work sheds where oysters are sorted and cleaned, and watch a grafter at work as he skillfully plies his trade.       

         Discover a World of Pearls  Discover a World of Pearls

The highlight of the excursion will be an opportunity to view a selection of unset black pearls that are available for purchase. Here, you’ll realize how important the shape and luster are when your guide discusses the criteria for grading pearls in terms of quality. Discover round, baroque and semi-baroque pearls ranging in grades from C to A.

Get an unforgettable look at one of nature’s finest gifts with our South Pacific cruises aboard Marina:

July 13, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Final Days of Simón Bolívar

Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her insightful and entertaining lectures aboard Oceania Cruises voyages throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, Sandy provides a fascinating portrait of Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan statesman and leader instrumental in the revolutions against the Spanish empire, along with highlights of his legacy in Santa Marta, Colombia.

Santa Marta, Colombia, is where the Great Liberator of South America, Simón Bolívar, finally succumbed to the toll of tuberculoses. That coupled with the punishing physical strain his body endured during decades of fighting battles, leading entire armies across the snow-capped Andes mountains, forging torrential rivers flooded to chest-height and riding on horseback over 75,000 miles, (the same distance from Anchorage, Alaska to the tip of South America five times)

1.	La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino
La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Bolívar faced as many setbacks as victories in his lifelong pursuit of releasing South America from the clutches of Spanish rule. He went into exile three times and freed the slaves of South America a half century before slaves knew freedom in North America. By the end of his life, Bolívar had liberated and governed the six modern day nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and his namesake, Bolivia.  Heartbroken at failing in his ultimate pursuit of a unified South America, he died at 47. He was a wisp at 77 pounds.

A view of the room where the clock stopped at Bolívar's death and was never re-set
A view of the room where the clock stopped at Bolívar's death and was never re-set

A guided excursion to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta, Colombia, sheds light on the closing chapter of Bolívar’s tumultuous life while offering a wonderful opportunity to experience the joyously fresh and temperate climate and vibrant scenery of this idyllic spot. Bolívar only enjoyed the crisp bright air and mountain views at Santa Marta for a few days before he died here on December 17, 1830. 

It is said that this working sugar plantation estate reminded Bolívar of the familiar smells of sugar processing from his childhood days. The amenities of the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino were offered to the ailing general as a comfortable place to stay while awaiting the vessel intended to take him on a final voyage to Europe. In his final days, his doctors watched over him. Bedridden and severely consumptive, he insisted on greeting his visitors while soldiers and guards gambled and played cards loudly in nearby rooms, often keeping him awake at night. His favorite cook served meals he relished in healthier days but could barely touch any more. Meanwhile, his nephew Ferdinand took hasty and sporadic dictations as Bolívar spelled out his last wishes and expressed his enduring vision for South America. He instructed his trusted Irish aide de camp, Daniel O’Leary, to burn the entirety of his extensive writings upon his death, a request O’Leary wisely disregarded. 

Bolívar’s bed with the Venezuelan colors
Bolívar’s bed with the Venezuelan colors

Born to arguably the richest family in Caracas, Venezuela, and quite possibly one of the richest families in all of South America, Bolívar inherited immeasurable wealth from family mines, plantations and properties by the time he was orphaned at nine years of age. He managed to spend the vast majority of it on the Revolutionary cause, leaving some paltry crumbs to his sisters and nephews.  He died a virtual pauper.

A great-grandnephew of George Washington felt compelled to send Bolívar a token in the spirit of solidarity during the Liberator’s glory years.  General Lafayette encouraged the gesture, avowing his high esteem of Bolívar. A little locket containing a strand of hair with Washington’s cameo on the cover was dispatched with a note declaring Bolívar the “George Washington of South America.”  Bolívar received it and wore the treasured locket as the pinnacle of honor, and it is now depicted on Bolívar’s chest in statues and paintings.

A Bolívar statue on the grounds featuring the George Washington locket on his chest
A Bolívar statue on the grounds featuring the George Washington locket on his chest

The grounds at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino also provide a glimpse into the lavish lifestyles of the colonial Spanish era that sugar cultivation afforded the privileged planters. The rooms are filled with examples of period furniture, carriages and relics in situ, just as they were during Bolívar’s brief stay, including the famous clock that stopped when he died after one o’clock and was never re-set. A thoughtful collection of paintings, valuable art and artifacts in nearby rooms all make this museum a testament to Bolívar’s colorful life and mythic accomplishments inspiring curiosity and igniting the imagination.

The Simón Bolívar monument in Santa Marta, Colombia
The Simón Bolívar monument in Santa Marta, Colombia

At a leisurely stroll away, the stark marble Bolívar memorial glimmers achingly white against the sapphire sky, commemorating his life achievements and last days at Santa Marta. He was buried in the nearby Santa Marta Cathedral.  His wish to be reburied in Caracas came true twelve years later.

Simón Bolívar’s quest for a free and unified South America is a circuitous story rife with unexpected twists and turns that blaze with flames of victory and crumble with the ashes of defeat while steadily rolling through a chunk of South America the size of Europe. 

Inside the Cathedral of Santa Marta where Bolívar was buried upon his death in 1830
Inside the Cathedral of Santa Marta where Bolívar was buried upon his death in 1830

Today, his legacy is misunderstood as often as it is misused by contradictory political factions invoking him as their own legitimate precursor in an attempt to garner support under the aegis of his hallowed name. The meteoric rise and plummeting fall of imperfect leaders across the recent political landscape of South America is quintessentially “Bolivarian.” 

Join Sandy’s talk, “Simón Bolívar: A Great American,” for a portrait of the daunting rise and fall of Simón Bolívar on these voyages in 2016:

Sunny Getaways:  Riviera | March 20-April 3, 2016

Caribbean Charisma:  Regatta | November 17-29, 2016

Pacific Holidays: Regatta | December 22, 2016 – January 7, 2017

July 10, 2015

Jacques Pépin’s Signature Sailing: Ringing in The Master’s 80th Birthday

JacquesSailing-FranckAs our beloved Executive Culinary Director and Master Chef Jacques Pépin celebrates his 80th birthday this year, we’re thrilled to be honoring this momentous occasion on board. Sailing from Lisbon to Rome this week aboard Riviera, Jacques is joined by his lovely wife, Gloria; his daughter, Claudine and his granddaughter, Shorey on this special 10-day Signature Sailing. Just a few days into the cruise, guests are already partaking in range of special events and celebrations.

Earlier in the week, during a cooking demonstration that featured recipes from Claudine’s new book, Kid’s Cook French, JacquesSailing-CookingDemoguests enjoyed a glimpse of the special family bond that Jacques, Claudine and Shorey share in the kitchen as they cooked up some classic French dishes. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed sweets and a befitting cake – in the shape of umbrellas – in honor of Jacques. Franck Garanger, Fleet Corporate Chef; along with Kathryn Kelly, Director of Enrichment and Executive Chef; and Noelle Barille, Chef Instructor, all joined in the festivities.

Yesterday Riviera called on Málaga where Jacques and guests strolled the central market, touring stalls filled with local meat and seafood, fresh fruits and regional treats. Afterwards, Jacques, accompanied by friends, family and guests, enjoyed lunch at one of his favorite restaurants in the city – El Tintero.













Later in the cruise, Jacques will take a trip down memory lane with our guests as he recounts some of his favorite culinary moments during a special lecture. He also plans to host book signings, special Q&A sessions and photo opportunities.

In addition, the Grand Dining Room is featuring one of Jacques’ signature dishes each evening to honor him, along with his namesake restaurant. The voyage is certain to be a wonderful celebration of Jacques and his special history with Oceania Cruises.

JacquesSailing-ChefsThe Culinary Center Celebrates Jacques
The Culinary Center has been celebrating Jacques and his glorious career through a special cooking class, Happy 80th, Jacques Pépin. The class will continue to be offered throughout the year, and features recipes that embrace Jacques’ lifelong passion for culinary technique, while emphasizing the basic techniques that chefs have learned from him over the past six decades. Drink a glass of Jacques' favorite champagne as a toast to the master, and send a happy birthday photo to him at the conclusion of the class!

JacquesSailing-PepinClassJoin all of us at Oceania Cruises in wishing Jacques a very happy 80th birthday!

July 8, 2015

The Indian Ocean: Crossroads of the World

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. Below, Dr. Freedman offers insight on the compelling role of the Indian Ocean – economically, geopolitically and historically.

image from Indian Ocean is a spectacularly beautiful destination. Sun- and sand- and sea-lovers will find more than their fill of joy in this part of the world. But beyond its magnificent beauty, the Indian Ocean is also a region of unique geopolitical and economic significance - perhaps moreso than any other ocean on our planet, and perhaps now more than ever.  

Of course there is really only one ocean on planet Earth, the saline hydrosphere that covers three-fourths of the earth’s surface and contains 97% of our planet’s water. That’s a lot of water – billions of billions of gallons – and it is roughly, if artificially, divided up by geographers into 3 major ocean systems: the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. (Some geographers count the circumferential ocean around Antarctica as a separate “Southern Ocean” and the northernmost arms of the Atlantic and Pacific as a separate “Arctic Ocean”, but we’ll just consider the Big Three for now.) The Indian Ocean is the smallest of the 3 major oceans - but still of impressive extent: it covers over 27 million square miles and is over 5 miles deep at its deepest point in the Java Trench. It is the warmest of the planet’s oceans, and it is getting even warmer as the heat energy from global warming is transferred into it from the Pacific via a massive oceanic heat transfer mechanism known as the Indonesian Throughflow. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean combined with its relatively low salinity and its exquisite clarity and soft aquamarine tones make it my favorite ocean for swimming, be it in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, the Seychelles, or Zanzibar.

The picture postcard beauty of the Indian Ocean: Zanzibar
The picture postcard beauty of the Indian Ocean: Zanzibar

The Indian Ocean has long been the least studied of the world’s great ocean systems, yet that seems to be changing as more and more attention is focused on its economics and the overlay of geopolitics. Indeed, the Indian Ocean connects the Atlantic and Euro-African and Middle Eastern worlds to south Asia and ultimately through the Strait of Malacca to the greater Asian and Pacific worlds. Ancient Egyptian mariners traveled from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via man-made canals which connected the Nile Delta to the Red Sea (pre-dating the Suez Canal by at least 3000 years). At the dawn of the first mil lennium, Greek sailors of the Alexandrian world were the first to grasp and master the unique and powerful monsoon system of the Indian Ocean. Understanding how to harness the energy of the monsoon was revolutionary, in that it made truly long-distance sea travel practical for the first time in human history. We think of the monsoon as a terrestrial rain phenomenon, but at sea it is actually a seasonally reversing wind regime of prodigious power over a vast ocean expanse. Every summer the warm air over the Asian landmass creates a low-pressure zone, and cooler air over the Indian Ocean comes rushing toward the Asian continent. That pattern reverses itself in the winter. For centuries, seaborne traders harnessed the powerful reversing winds of the monsoon to go back and forth to India, the “Spice Islands” of Indonesia, and to and from the exotic realms of Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. Persian and Arab traders dominated these routes for centuries, and many grew spectacularly rich from the enormous profits on ivory and gold from Africa and spices, silk and porcelains from the Orient. Their extensive trade activity went hand in hand with the Islamicization of much of south and Southeast Asia, a legacy which exists to this day. The monsoons also propelled immense Chinese treasure ships to and from Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Horn of Africa. Indian and Sri Lankan traders rode the winds to Southeast Asia, where both Hinduism and Buddhism followed in their wake, with Buddhism’s profound influence throughout Asia enduring to this day.

Famed medieval traveler/explorers such as the Venetian trader Marco Polo and the Moroccan pilgrim Ibn Battuta sailed across the Indian Ocean en route to China and wrote of its charms and mysteries – and its mercantile importance. They and other navigators since the 2nd century AD depended on maps created by the great Alexandrian mathematician and astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy. Ptolemaic maps depicted the Indian Ocean clearly enough, but incorrectly showed it to be a giant landlocked sea. Ptolemy and his centuries of disciples in the ancient cartographic world believed the southern end of Africa was connected to a large landmass known as Terra Australis Nondum Cognita (Southern Land Not Yet Known).

Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand, the northeast region of the Indian Ocean
Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand, the northeast region of the Indian Ocean

This purely mythical land, amazingly, did turn out to exist – we know it today as Antarctica.  But we know today that Antarctica is actually a separate stand-alone contine nt. It was not until 1488 that the intrepid Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias was able to definitively prove all the mapmakers wrong by rounding the southern tip of Africa by sea – a feat which changed the world forever by showing there was indeed an oceanic route between the Atlantic world of Europe and the Indian Ocean, which would then serve as the great crossroads and gateway to all of Asia. Vasco da Gama took the next giant step when he made it from Lisbon all the way to India in 1498. This opened the way not just for a new Age of Imperialism by the Portuguese and a host of other European powers who followed quickly and rapaciously, but also for world-changing globalization of trade and cultural diffusion between East and West – processes which continually accelerated over subsequent centuries and which are today more robust and of more importance than ever.

Steamships freed traders from the tyranny of the monsoon regime in the 19th century, and trade increased exponentially, a pattern which shows no sign of slowing down today or long into the future. Today the Indian Ocean is a vital shipping lane for the world’s goods and is also an energy superhighway. China, for example, gets 80% of its petroleum products from the Gulf States, via the Indian Ocean. The key geographical “choke points” of the Indian Ocean trade route have for centuries been coveted geopolitical loci, and remain so to this day.

Dr. John Freedman looking for lemurs on the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar (Found one!)
Dr. John Freedman looking for lemurs on the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar (Found one!)

Two of the most important – the Strait of Hormuz which is the “neck of the wine bottle” of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca which is the “funnel to East Asia” – have been sites of great strategic value, continued political intrigue, and intermittent warfare for over 500 years.

The Indian Ocean has long been a major theatre for global geopolitics, and this is especially true today as China definitively assumes the mantle of a world superpower. China and India are two Asian giants who vie for economic dominance and political hegemony in the Indian Ocean sphere. China’s “soft power” approach through robust economic and diplomatic initiatives has been carried out on a massive scale in Africa over the past decade – so much so that some pundits have gone so far as to call Africa “China’s second continent.”  The Indian Ocean is China’s sea bridge to Africa and the Middle East. Along the route there are numerous countries whose political and economic kinship China is very actively courting, such as Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (Karachi itself, the second most populous city in the world, is a major Indian Ocean port city). China has developed what the U.S Defense Department has referred to as a “String of Pearls” of naval bases spanning the Indian Ocean from Asia to Africa. The U.S. has a major naval base on the remote Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and it is likely inclined to pursue establishing more bases in this important region in the future. The Maldives, a stunningly beautiful archipelagic nation in the northern Indian Ocean, is today in the throes of a dynamic internal confrontation between democratic and authoritarian forces – China, India, the U.S. and other western powers have all begun jockeying for an advantageous position as the political drama plays out.

So while the Indian Ocean is indeed spectacularly beautiful and “exotic” and a destination full of picture postcard natural beauty, we should not forget its dynamic economic and geopolitical importance throughout human history and into the present day. As the “crossroads of the world” it will surely play a large and pivotal role in the future evolution of world history.

Dr. Freedman invites you to join him this fall for fascinating explorations throughout Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean on these voyages:

Pagodas & Palaces: Insignia | October 10, 2015

Sultans & Safaris: Insignia | October 26, 2015

Wonders of the Atlantic: Insignia | November 30, 2015

July 6, 2015

NEW OLife Advantage: Experience the Benefits of Sailing with Oceania Cruises

Olife2We are excited to introduce OLife Advantage, our brand new collection of amenities that enhances your vacation experience and brings you generous savings when you book early. For guests in Veranda Staterooms and above, OLife Advantage includes FREE Shore Excursions, FREE Unlimited Internet, and FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities, all designed to make your vacation experience even more carefree.

OlifelogoThis special offer, featured on all spring, summer and fall 2016 voyages in Europe, Alaska and Canada & New England, is valid now through September 30, 2015 when you book a Veranda Stateroom or above. Take advantage of a range of exciting free excursions which allow you to experience incredible destinations more fully, along with unlimited Internet so you can stay connected with friends and family back home. The number of free excursions is based on the length of your voyage:

Voyages up to 9 days: 3 FREE Excursions
Voyages 10-12 days: 4 FREE Excursions
Voyages 14+ days: 5 FREE Excursions

Expertly-crafted shore excursions focused on history, culture, nature and cuisine invite you to discover the destination more deeply – whether it’s in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Alaska or beyond! Just a few highlights are below.

Olife6The Hermitage, A Wealth of Art & History (available from St. Petersburg, Russia)

No visit to St. Petersburg would be complete with a tour of the world-famous Hermitage Museum – the “Crown Jewel” of the museum list in St. Petersburg. Founded in 1764 as a private museum of Catherine the Great – to which only she and her closest courtiers had access – it is now Russia’s largest art museum, housing an astounding collection of art. Explore the splendor of the collection, spread among four buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, and the New Hermitage.

Olife3Hills of Lucca & Wine Tasting (available from Florence/Pisa/Tuscany, Italy)

Take in the rolling hills and beautiful valleys of the Tuscan countryside as you drive toward the wonderful medieval town of Lucca for a fascinating glimpse into the region's winemaking traditions. Explore this charming old world city on your own, perhaps strolling along the amazingly well-preserved Renaissance-era city walls. Afterwards, visit a local wine cellar to learn about traditional process and bottling methods and enjoy an exquisite tasting of red and white wines, accompanied by local salami, olives and bread.

Olife4Ephesus & Terrace Houses (available from Ephesus, Turkey)

Ephesus is esteemed as one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and during your walking tour, you will see the remains of its glorious Roman architecture. Behold excavated treasures such as the Odeon Theater, public baths, the two-tiered Celsus Library, and the nearly 24,000-seat Grand Theater, where St. Paul once preached. You will also have the opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses, which were inhabited by Ephesus' wealthiest residents and are richly decorated with mosaics and frescoes.

Olife5Mendenhall Glacier Explorer (available from Juneau, Alaska)

Discover Juneau’s scenic natural beauty, along with the astounding Mendenhall Glacier. Admire Juneau’s picturesque waterfront and then take in gorgeous vistas of the glacier, one of 38 flowing from the massive 1,500-square mile Juneau Icefield. Note the mystical blue hue of the glacier, caused by a unique crystalline structure that absorbs and reflects light. You can also venture out on the trails for a firsthand glimpse of this relatively new ecosystem once covered by ice.

Start planning your 2016 voyage today!

Please note: The above list is only a sample of shore excursions typically offered. Every effort is made to finalize shore excursions 180 days in advance of the sailing. For the OLife Advantage offer, free shore excursions vary by voyage and exclude Oceania Choice and Oceania Exclusive excursions. 

July 2, 2015

Celebrating Independence Days Around the World

Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldParades, kite-flying, torch-running – freedom festivities take shape in many ways. As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, honoring the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776, we’re taking a look at other countries’ days of freedom and how they celebrate.

Happy Birthday Canada | July 1

Canada’s Independence Day is frequently referred to as "Canada's birthday" or “Canada Day.” This event marks the union of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867. Canadians celebrate their Independence very similar to that of the U.S. with parades, fireworks, summer picnics and a whole host of other fun activities.

Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldGrito do Ipiranga | September 7

Brazil won its freedom after Portuguese prince Dom Pedro I declared it independent from his father's rule on September 7, 1822, in one of the most peaceful Latin American revolutions. The Brazilians did not have to go to war for their independence; the King himself declared in the Grito do Ipiranga, "By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free" with the motto "Independence or Death!"

On this day, thousands of Brazilians gather throughout the streets to celebrate with banners, balloons and streamers. They proudly fly their flag, sing songs and enjoy the day with their friends and families.

India Flies As Free As the Wind | August 15

India won their independence on August 15, 1947, after more than 200 years of British colonial rule. To celebrate their freedom, saffron, white and emerald-green kites evoking the young country's tri-colored flag are flown all over, and parades and pageants are also popular.

Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldArriba Mexico | September 16

On September 16, Mexico will celebrate 203 years of independence, since the legendary priest Miguel Hidalgo sounded "El Grito de la Independencia" – a cry for freedom that set in motion the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Mexico’s celebrations start the night of the 15th and carry on into the next day. Some of the traditions include the national military parade, which marches through various memorials, the ringing of the National Palace bell in Mexico City, fireworks, civic festivals and family gatherings.

Guatemala, Honduras & Beyond: Freedom for All | September 15

Inspired by the results of Spain's defeat in the Mexican War for Independence, Guatemala declared all of Central America free on September 15, 1821. Beginning in Guatemala City and ending in Costa Rica’s former colonial capital Cartago, the “running of the torch” relay is still a much-loved Independence Day tradition and attracts large crowds every year.

Happy 4th of July from all of us at Oceania Cruises!

June 30, 2015

It’s All in the Details: La Reserve by Wine Spectator

2Ohio natives Marge and Robert R., frequent Oceania Cruises guests and wine enthusiasts, cruised aboard Riviera through the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and indulged in a seven-course meal paired with fine wines during an unforgettable evening at La Reserve by Wine Spectator.

Someone once told me the best wine is the one we drink among great company.  My husband Robert and I, self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs, chose a roundtrip Miami voyage aboard Riviera last winter, to relax, enjoy the sunshine and experience the perfect pairings and delectable cuisine aboard La Reserve by Wine Spectator. We read the premium wines were selected in consultation with wine experts from Wine Spectator, so as soon as we booked our cruise, we reserved our seats at the restaurant.  

1I remember looking at the beautifully designed china on the table, and preparing for a remarkable evening at the intimate setting on Deck 12. Robert settled in across from me as couples from different parts of the world joined us. Our chef for the evening soon introduced himself, and provided an overview of the enticing courses and wine pairings that awaited us.

The wine and fine dining at La Reserve by Wine Spectator was much more than an upscale meal; it was an unforgettable experience.  Among the three different menus to choose from: Discovery menu, Odyssey menu and the Connoisseur menu, we chose the Connoisseur menu and savored every single bite of the seven-course dinner.

3I loved the butter poached Brittany blue lobster with vegetable nage and beetroot cress which was paired with a crisp and lively California white – Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. I loved the way the bright citrus flavors and acidity balanced the richness of the lobster.  Robert enjoyed the seared Kobe beef sous vide with Valrhona sauce, Franck’s mashed potatoes and edamame beans paired with an elegant Italian red – Marchesi Fumanelli Octavius Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva – which perfectly complemented the delicate flavor of the beef. The care and attention to detail by each staff member in the restaurant enhanced the evening, making us all feel as if the night had been planned just for us.

When the spectacular evening came to an end, Robert and I could not stop raving about the cuisine, and more importantly, the wine. As we strolled out onto the open deck, the stars shining brightly above, we began dreaming about our next Oceania Cruises voyage. We are looking forward to another evening at La Reserve, this time aboard Marina as we sail through Baltic in July!  

June 26, 2015

Guest Post: Top Tips to Capture Stunning Sunsets

David Smith
Sunset Over Rethymno, Crete (David Smith)

David Smith, a world travel & fine art photographer from Vancouver, is joining Insignia on several segments of the 180-Day World Odyssey, which departs July 8. His photography has been published in the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Geo Saison Magazine and USA Today. Below, David shares the key to taking gorgeous sunset photographs.

On a recent visit to the Greek Islands (happiness is a scooter, sandals and a bathing suit!) we watched an amazing sunset being created from our balcony in Rethymno on the northwestern coast of Crete. This sunset was visible all over Crete and the locals still talk about it weeks later. Casual travel photographers rarely capture sunset sunsets properly since the camera light meter gets confused by the combination of bright, bright sun and dark clouds. One needs to underexpose sunset photographs to create a dramatic sky, better exposed sun and bright highlights and increased color saturation. In the film camera days, good photographs would set exposure to the sky behind the sunset and then set cameras settings in manual to -2 stops. With digital cameras its easy, just set your exposure value (UV) to – 2.0 but you have to be off automatic mode on most digital cameras to be able to change your EV settings.

Istanbul Sunset – A Call to Prayer
Istanbul Sunset – A Call to Prayer (David Smith)

When the captain moved Marina from the pier in Istanbul, he could not have picked better timing. As she swung about to slip by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, an intense and vivid red sunset was punctuated by a Muslim call to prayer echoing among the minarets. On deck, some tears were shed, cameras clicked furiously and it was all over in a few minutes as dusk faded into night and the ship moved southwards down the Bosphorus. Being the start of a memorable voyage to Turkey and Greece, is this memorable event a sign of more to come?

I cringed as I saw most cameras capturing this lifetime moment with just a few shots in automatic mode. Light meters, even in today’s sophisticated digital cameras, can’t handle the complexity of both the intense bright spots around the sun lit clouds and the dark moods of the burnt ember colored sky. In automatic mode, the inability of a camera’s sensor to capture both bright and darks at the same time results in a rather flat looking image with blown out bright areas and not so colorful clouds. To capture better sunsets with your camera, you must underexpose the shot to reduce blown-out brights and increase the saturation of the brilliant colors.

EV control button
EV control button

The magic elixir that makes this happen without having to know anything about shutter speeds and f-stops is the Exposure Value (EV) button. Often a plus/minus symbol with a diagonal line or a menu setting control in almost all digital cameras have this control, sometimes enabled only when you are NOT in automatic or scene modes.

To underexpose your shot set the EV control to a negative number. The default setting is EV=0.0 so take a shot at the auto or default setting, then move the EV setting to -1.0 take a shot, then move it to -2.0 take a shot, etc. Better cameras have EV setting ranges of up to + or – 5.0 so go lower than EV=-2.0 if you can. An EV of -2.0 is the same as underexposing by 2 stops in the old film camera world. You can see the results instantly on your camera’s LCD. By bracketing you can select the best shot to show later. This sequence of photos of the same scene shows the dramatic difference of the sunsets by underexposing the shot in 1 EV increments. In my honest opinion, the most dramatic image is the -2 EV shot.

Underexposing sunset shots increases color saturation and adds drama
Underexposing sunset shots increases color saturation and adds drama

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 beautiful photography on his gallery and his Fine Art America website.  

June 24, 2015

New Slovenia Culinary Discovery Tour: An Emerging Food & Wine Destination

1What distinguishes a gourmet explorer from a tourist? A true sense of culinary adventure. Nowhere is that more true than in Slovenia. This summer Oceania Cruises’ popular Culinary Discover Tours will include several calls to Koper where guests are treated to a truly epic “deep dive” into the emerging food and wine landscape.

2We start our tour at the Fonda Fish Farm, where this second generation dynasty leads the industry in sustainable aquaculture. In preparation for the tour, I re-read Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg, an insightful book about salmon, cod, tuna and sea bass. I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in the status of our seas and the fish who call them home. 

Dr. Fonda greets us, whose father, a deep-sea diver, founded the business after noticing that the larger species of fish from his youth were disappearing. This family of biologists presents a compelling case for responsible fish husbandry – challenging you to rethink your preconceived notions of farmed fish. 

3Dr. Fonda takes us on an incredible journey from the purchasing of 200,000 baby sea bass to the 2-year care of the fish and eventually to their responsible harvesting.

4After a tour by boat through the fish farm, we enjoy a sample of the Branzino –  from ceviche to smoked varieties, along with local salt and olive oils. They are welcoming and informative hosts, truly leaving you with a new appreciation for the art and science of aquaculture.

5After a morning on the water, we venture into the Slavnic mountains to the BRIC winery. Privately owned, this property is a commitment to viticulture in its most pristine and authentic form. We arrive at the winery, and are escorted to a scenic lookout above the buildings for a glass of wine so aromatic and unique that it takes your breath away. The wine smells of honeysuckle, and spring has just arrived so we stand with a 360-degree vista of the countryside. Barely-emerging vines with purple wisteria in full bloom are all around us. What a magical way to start our tour of the winery and a sumptuous lunch.

8As we finish our last sip of wine, we are called back down from the lookout by the enthusiastic bark of three dogs, who will (with their owner) take us on a short truffle hunt!  Off under the oak trees we go and find some gorgeous black truffles. We learn that truffle hunters carry a special shovel to dig out the truffles without injuring the roots of the tree, and lucky Maggie winds up finding all of the truffles today. 

7After praising the dogs and marveling at the truffles, we head inside the winery for a tour of the facility.  After witnessing the operation and hearing the philosophy of the wine maker, we head to a glass-walled dining room for a truffle-themed lunch. We enjoy several red and white wines as we sit atop the gorgeous mountain amongst the vineyards, and it’s hard to imagine a more inviting setting to acquaint ourselves with the traditions and hospitality of our new Slovenian friends.

June 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!

Oceania Cruises partnered with Food & Wine magazine to celebrate and honor legendary Chef, and our Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin on his 80th birthday during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The gala event, comprised of 500 of the country’s leading culinary influencers and enthusiasts, took place on the spectacular Aspen Sundeck at the pinnacle of Aspen Mountain.

Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague, Culinary Executive Chef Jacques Pepin, Claudine Pepin and Dana Cowin, Editor of Food & Wine Magazine
Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague, Culinary Executive Chef Jacques Pépin, Claudine Pépin and Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine

Oceania Cruises' President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Montague delivered a heartfelt address touching upon Jacques’ many contributions to Oceania Cruises, which was followed by a celebratory Champagne toast. The event hit a crescendo when a custom croquembouche cake, festooned with sparklers, was wheeled out for revelers’ enjoyment and Jason presented Jacques with a commemorative Champagne sabering sword.

Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!
Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!

This July onboard Riviera promises to be a family affair as Jacques’ daughter Claudine, co-Host of Jacques’ award-winning “Cooking with Claudine“ television series, and his granddaughter Shorey will join Pépin and his wife Gloria on the 10-day Iberian Inspiration departing Lisbon for Rome on July 7, 2015.

Oceania Club Members Ronald & Donna Thompson with Senior Vice President James Rodriguez
Oceania Club Members Ronald & Donna Thompson with Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President James Rodriguez

Jacques’ birthday festivities will continue in Marina and Riviera Culinary Centers throughout the year with the addition of “La Technique: A Celebration of Jacques Pépin’s 80th Birthday.” The class will showcase his life and legacy and teach his world-renowned cooking techniques. 

June 18, 2015

Summer in Paradise Aboard Sirena

Summer in Paradise Aboard SirenaImagine the moonlight sparkling on the sea, the twinkling lights of historic cities lining the coast and the glorious sight of vineyards stretching inland as far as you can see.  With Sirena’s alluring summer itineraries, you don’t have to imagine paradise because we’ll take you there. Capturing the best and most interesting gems throughout the Mediterranean, each voyage offers a spectacular collage of cultural treasures

Idyllic Ionian – Venice to Rome

On this idyllic voyage that embarks along the distinctive canals of Venice, crosses the Ionian Sea and arrives at the immortal Seven Hills of Rome, you will experience the many joys of life in Italy and beyond. Stand on the stage of an ancient amphitheater with a sweeping view in Taormina, savor a plate of gnocchi at a bougainvillea-framed sidewalk café on Capri, and stretch out on Shipwreck Beach on gloriously Greek Zakynthos.

3Divine Tides – Rome to Istanbul

As you will discover on this voyage through the hallowed sites of antiquity, the Mediterranean transcends time, its tides having seen the rise and fall of Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires.  While in Rome, visit the world-famous Vatican Museums, where an exceptional collection of artwork from every era is on display. On the island of Crete, discover Knossos Palace, the center of the ancient capital of the great King Minos and explore the village of Rabat in Malta, where St. Paul is said to have lived in 60 AD.

4Cradle of History – Athens to Istanbul

Visit historic places that defined who we are today on this sweeping journey through the cultural, spiritual and philosophical touchstones of the Mediterranean. Explore the seemingly immortal pyramids of Egypt and unearth the legends of the pharaohs. During an overnight stay in Jerusalem, learn the importance of this remarkable and turbulent city to the foundations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and let the voices of Greek philosophers ring across the centuries at the Acropolis of Athens.

Mediterranean Collage – Valletta to Barcelona

As you embark in Malta, the sweeping views of the sea will offer a panorama of the region into which you will delve. Contrast the sleek yachts and chic boutiques of Monte Carlo with the charms of a sidewalk café serving bouillabaisse in Marseille. Be uplifted by Palermo’s famed Piazza Pretoria and its fountain adorned with dozens of white marble figures and sip a glass of limoncello in seaside Sorrento.

5Wineries & Waterways – Lisbon to Paris

With an overnight stay in Bordeaux, visit the Médoc vineyards and the cellars of one of the region's esteemed chateaux. During another overnight visit, you’ll discover that Paris lives up to its City of Light moniker when the Eiffel Tower is reflected in the rippling waters of the Seine. From Oporto, visit the fascinating city of Guimarães, the first capital of Portugal and the birthplace of the nation's first king.

View a complete list of Sirena’s itineraries

June 12, 2015

Cruise Director Dottie Kulasa: 27 Years at Sea

1It was the winter of 1978 when Cruise Director Dottie Kulasa took her very first cruise, trading Pennsylvania’s harsh winter weather for the balmy Caribbean. As the ship sailed to San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and other ports throughout the Caribbean, Dottie knew she was hooked. She remembers watching the staff during the voyage and thinking, “I can do this.”

“I just fell in love with being on a ship and the travel aspect of the industry,” she said.

Following her graduation from college, Dottie went into public relations in Pittsburgh, eventually becoming the Director of Public Relations for McKeesport Hospital where she worked for seven years. During this period in her life, every vacation Dottie took was a cruise. Nearly ten years after her very first cruise, she began her career at sea in 1988. In fact, this spring marks Dottie’s 27th anniversary at sea, and all of these years later, she says she enjoys her role now more than ever.

2“Here at Oceania Cruises, I am so engaged with the guests and we are blessed to have wonderful, appreciative guests,” Dottie said. “I love being the spark that allows them to relax and have a wonderful vacation.”

Dottie’s life at sea is also what led her to meet her husband, stand-up comedian Tom Drake, nearly 19 years ago aboard a ship. They worked together for about three years before getting married, and still enjoy traveling and working together since Tom is a comedian for Oceania Cruises.

“Of course, being married to a comedian means I am the subject of a few of Tom’s jokes but they are all in good fun,” Dottie said. “He is constantly adding new material to his show and all of it is tested out on me…he makes me laugh all the time!”

6As Cruise Director, Dottie is at the center of activities aboard the ship and has had her share of memorable moments on board – some of which have a way of returning again and again. One such memory was aboard Nautica when in port at Salalah, Oman in 2011. Dottie recalls how they had a special deck party called “Sheik, Rattle & Roll Deck Party,” and that guests were encouraged to buy a traditional outfit in one of our ports of call.

“To our amazement, the majority of the guests arrived dressed in traditional outfits,” Dottie said. But even more remarkable, now years later, two of these guests on a recent voyage pulled up the photos they had taken at the party to show Dottie.

4“The pictures go everywhere they go as a reminder of the great times they’ve had on their Oceania Cruises voyages,” Dottie said. 

After traveling throughout the world for all of these years, Dottie also has some distinct favorites when it comes to destinations. She loves the markets of Shanghai and enjoys doing her holiday shopping there, while Edinburgh is one of those rare travel discoveries for Dottie that enchants with its haunting familiarity.

“This might sound strange but in another life I know I lived in the Edinburgh Castle,” Dottie said, laughing.  “I feel as if I were once a handmaiden there.”  

5Meanwhile, a little further south on the Adriatic, it’s the irresistible ambiance of Venice that lures her back again and again.

“I just love the romance of Venice and the food,” she said. “I’ll never tire of sailing into Venice.”

In fact, Dottie looks forward to visiting The Floating City once again this autumn aboard Marina, continuing her fascinating life at sea. 

June 8, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Nothing Sweeter! Behind Sugarcane Processing at a Costa Rican Hacienda

1Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been sharing her insightful and entertaining lectures aboard Oceania Cruises voyages throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, she shares her unique experience at a century-old hacienda in Costa Rica.

I don’t know about you, but in my life, sugar constitutes a major food group. I can’t get enough of it, so when the opportunity arose to join a Regatta excursion to see how sugar is processed in Costa Rica, the proverbial wild horses couldn’t keep me away.

2The action started at Hacienda Tayutic after a pleasant narrated ride through Costa Rica’s lush countryside. Strolling around the idyllic grounds we got lost –and found – in an amazing old maze, met up with some mystical ancient spheres and found a little chapel with a breathtaking view.

But the pièce de résistance was the little open-air theater where a pair of oxen sharing a decorative wooden yoke awaited our arrival before strutting their stuff around the old-style animal mill the hacienda uses to crush the sugarcane.

4Unknown to many, sugarcane is actually a type of grass, and is not indigenous to the Caribbean. Sugarcane came as a guest aboard Columbus’s ship, reportedly from his mother-in-law’s garden in the Canary Islands. Of course that may be fuzzy history, part-truth and part-legend – but indigenous to India, sugar started its Caribbean presence in 1492. 

Directly on the heels of Columbus, Sephardic Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition left Spain and Portugal to introduce the New World’s first large-scale sugar plantations in Brazil. In no time, this crop that found a welcome environment with the rich volcanic soil and frequent rains – and an insatiable demand in Europe – rolled through the Caribbean islands fueling the economy of the British Empire for centuries.

5In Costa Rica, the method for sugar processing today is not far removed from that used originally by the Sephardic Jews. Initially, sugar has to be harvested with a machete. It is tough and labor intensive, which gives pause to the unavoidable fact that without the free labor provided by African slaves, about four million in the Caribbean alone by the mid-19th Century, the Caribbean sugar enterprise would have failed. 

6As our small group watched the sugarcane process, a couple of volunteers fed stalks of sugarcane into crushers as the oxen lumbered around and around the mill. It was amazing how much juice gushed out of the cane stalks passing through the crushers.

7Our hosts boiled the syrup in a round-bottom “copper” kettle over an open fire.  “Coppers” were used universally in this process and I have seen old coppers strewn across the Caribbean from Antigua to Tortola, from neglected fields to museum exhibits…everywhere! 

Now the clear cane juice was turning dark brown and the distinctive smell of molasses permeated the air. Our host checked the concoction intermittently with his paddle to determine its readiness.  From a “soft ball” stage, it quickly graduated to the “hard ball” stage, when it’s ready for crystallization. 

8Sugar must be crystallized very quickly or it spoils; therefore, during the colonial era no one could leave the plantation during harvest season. For this reason, plantations were planned as self-contained communities including a greathouse, mill, boiling house, livestock barns, rum distillery, even a chapel, infirmary and jail. 

The boiler master had only a brief opportunity for crystallization or risked losing the entire batch. Our hosts proved this point by quickly pouring the dark and viscous liquid from the copper into a wooden vat. 

9While entertaining us with the hacienda’s history, they added some mineral lime while constantly paddling the sugar. Before our very eyes, the paddling transformed the thick mass into rich, beautiful crystal sugar, deep brown with the consistency of damp sand. 

10To some of the still-liquid sugar mass they added powdered milk and stirred in chopped macadamia nuts until it thickened into irresistible pralines. Meanwhile, they had poured liquid sugar into wooden molds and “thumped out” some beautiful sugar “loaves” they cleverly wrapped in banana leaves for an artful photo op.

11A couple of weeks later, I am writing this at home in my kitchen in Grand Rapids, Michigan at about 4:00 am. I am sipping my first morning cup of coffee delectably sweetened with pure brown sugar from that day in Costa Rica at Hacienda Tayutic. Besides the sweet memory, what souvenir could be sweeter than…sugar?

This December, Sandy will be a guest lecturer on Riviera’s Sands & Shores, Mayan Mystique and Celebrate the Sunshine voyages. Join her for the talks listed below and more.

  • “Confessions from a Sugar Plantation Greathouse”
  • “Breadfruit and Cou-Cou Sticks: New World Meets Old World For Dinner”
  • “Tropical Torahs: History of the Caribbean Jews”

June 5, 2015

At Artist Loft with Graham Denison: Acclaimed Palette Knife Artist & Former Walt Disney Artist

Artist LoftIf you walk into one of Graham Denison’s Artist Loft workshops, there’s a good chance you’ll find him immersed in demonstrating how to draw Winnie the Pooh or another beloved Disney character to a room full of guests. Long before he became a master of illustrating these characters, Graham was fascinated by them.

“I was always drawing Disney characters in school, and getting in trouble for it,” Graham said, laughing. “I was drawing in math and science and all those subjects you shouldn’t be, and I was taken to the principal’s office and told to stop drawing Disney characters.”

But Graham persisted. He shared that he went after Disney because he saw it as the pinnacle of art quality at the time. After high school, he sent drawing after drawing to the Disney studios until they finally gave him a chance. At age 17, Graham began working at the only Disney studio in England at the time.

Graham at work in Artist Loft during a recent voyage aboard Riviera
Graham at work in Artist Loft during a recent voyage aboard Riviera

“At first, I was just the tea boy, but at lunch they would let me loose on a few projects,” Graham explained. “After about three months, they gave me my first real job – which was a Flintstones video sleeve that I did.”

And so it began. After three years, Graham left the studio as Head Illustrator, and continued creating Disney work for licensees on a freelance basis. The Paris and London Disney studios noticed his work and eventually brought him in for more training, and then took him on as an in-house character artist where he worked for the next twenty years.

It was the onset of computer-generated art that eventually provoked Graham to turn toward fine art and explore oil painting on canvas.

“I didn’t want to create a painting on a keyboard that was never more than a file on a disk,” he said. “I’m a traditional artist, so I like to have something that’s tangible, something you can hold, you can see, something that will be around for hundreds of years.”

Then Graham discovered a tool that would become an important part of his technique. 

Graham and his wife with one of his vivid Venetian paintings
Graham and his wife with one of his vivid Venetian paintings

“I saw a gentleman using a palette knife whilst on holiday, and thought ‘wow, that looks like freedom,’” Graham said. “You can use it as an impressionism tool; it’s not for photographic reality.”

Graham loves the palette knife for the rich textures it allows him to create, and how he can sculpt and use broad strokes to create vibrant scenes. Even more, he’s completely self-taught. He’s never had any formal training, and after five paintings created with the palette knife, he had one he could sell. Graham now exhibits in galleries worldwide, receives numerous private commissions and sells to international art collectors all over the world.

“Today, really I paint what I feel,” Graham said. “I’m very fortunate that so many people love what I paint, and that they want to buy everything I do.”

One of Graham’s biggest influences is the renowned impressionist Claude Monet, and his signature water lily paintings.

With each original work of art, Graham includes a certificate of authenticity, a handwritten dedication, along with the palette that he used to create the work
With each original work of art, Graham includes a certificate of authenticity, a handwritten dedication, along with the palette that he used to create the work

"I do a lot of paintings that depict his garden in Giverny, especially with the lily pond, the famous Japanese bridge, his little row boat, but above all the water lilies floating on the surface,” Graham said. “And I do those with the palette knife which gives them added texture.”

Though Graham is inspired by every destination he visits during his extensive travels, one of his all-time favorite locations is Venice.

“I love to paint Venice,” he said. “Especially depicting the Carnival time during Lent with lots of different colorful Carnival characters with their masks.”

This autumn, we’re delighted to be featuring Graham in our artist-in-residence program aboard Riviera on a number voyages listed below. We invite you to admire Graham’s dramatic Venetian Carnival paintings, enchanting water lilies and more in Artist Loft. Plus, you can join one of his special workshops to learn first-hand from his incredible talent and artistic knowledge.

Aegean Adventures: September 7, 2015

Jewels of the Aegean: September 17, 2015

Greek Isles Getaway: September 27, 2015

Mediterranean Mosaic: October 5, 2015

European Hideaways: October 23, 2015

Isles & Empires: October 30, 2015

Artistic Discoveries: November 7, 2015

Visit Graham Denison's website at:

June 2, 2015

Classical Provençal Tapenade

Provence1Provence is a celebrated culinary region with an abundance of fruits, herbs, vegetables and fish. The olives along the Cote d’Azur benefit from the sunny, dry, salty sea climate, so olive tapenade is a savory specialty of the region. Tapenade is typically served on toasted bread and should have a very strong flavor to wake up the palate. Garlic bread, air-dried sausages, red wine and tapenade make up one of the favorite appetizers in Provence.


1/3 cup capers

10 anchovy fillets, in oil

6 cloves garlic

1¾ cups pitted black olives

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Classical Provençal TapenadeEnsure the capers and anchovies are well drained. Combine the garlic, capers and anchovies in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the olives and pulse again. Add the herbes de Provence and lemon juice. Pulse the mixture once more. Season to taste with pepper.

While pulsing, gradually add olive oil in a slow stream just until the tapenade is spreadable. Mixture should be well blended but not puréed. Spread on toasted baguette slices and serve.

May 29, 2015

Our Senior Officers’ Favorite Oceania Cruises Dishes

Miso Glazed Sea Bass at Red GingerThe succulent Miso Glazed Sea Bass at Red Ginger, the creamy Lobster Bisque at Polo Grill, the heavenly Crème Brûlée à la Lavande at Jacques – the dishes at our onboard restaurants are so delicious it seems everyone on our ships loves to share where they’ve dined, what they’ve tried and their top picks. But have you tried all of our senior officers’ favorites yet? Below are few of the dishes they always return for. Try them next time you’re on board…bon appétit!

Captain Luca ManziCaptain Luca Manzi
Red Snapper at Red Ginger

Served in a Banana Leaf with makrut lime, chili paste, green olive salt

“The way the chefs prepare the fish at Red Ginger is phenomenal.” 


Captain Luca ManziGeneral Manager Damien Lacroix
Bar en Croûte et Sauce Beurre Blanc at Jacques

Sea Bass Filet Baked in Puff Pastry Crust with Beurre Blanc and Mille Feuille at Jacques Crispy Baked Puff Pastry Layers with Light Vanilla Cream

“The Bar en Croûte is just super – you can take it for two or have it alone. And you have to try the Mille Feuille for dessert, it’s done quite well and is very traditional.”


Cruise Director Leslie Jon

Cruise Director Leslie Jon
Pennette San Gimignano at Toscana

Penne Pasta tossed with Roasted Porcini Mushrooms and enhanced with a Delicate Rosemary-Laced Meat Sauce

“This is a great favorite of mine that I go back to again and again.”


4Executive Concierge Leandro RoldanExecutive Concierge Leandro Roldan
Osso Buco alla Milanese at Toscana
Tender Veal Shank slow oven braised in a Porcini Enhanced Stock served with Saffron- Infused Risotto

“This is by far my favorite… the slow oven-braise concentrates the flavors and makes the meat extra tender, and it pairs well with the exquisite risotto. It’s a fantastic traditional Milanese recipe!” 


Oceania Club Ambassador Carol HarringtonOceania Club Ambassador Carol Harrington
Stir-Fried Vegetables & Tofu in Lemon Grass and Coconut Milk at the Grand Dining Room
Served with Steamed Jasmine Rice

“This is a dish I never get tired of – and it’s a delicious vegetarian option.”



Executive Chef Maarten SmeetsExecutive Chef Maarten Smeets
Tournedos Rossini with Sautéed Foie Gras at the Grand Dining Room
Served with Fried Lorette Potatoes and Périgourdine Sauce

“It’s difficult to choose – we have so many amazing dishes—but the Tournedos Rossini is a true treat. The perfectly grilled high quality marbled beef, the sautéed fois gras together with the Madeira sauce, fleur del sel and black truffle is mindblowing!”

May 27, 2015

Safari Q&A with our Resident Destinations Expert

IMG_1172Dreaming of going on an African safari? Discover tips and insider details from our very own destinations expert, Oceania Cruises’ Vice President of Destination Services Operations, Christine Manjencic. With over three decades of experience in the cruise industry, travel is simply in Christine’s blood. Since travel is essential to her role, she is always on the go, and recently had the chance to go on a range of safaris in several areas of Africa including at Shamwari Game Reserve and Pumba Game Reserve both outside of Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, along with Phinda Game Reserve outside of Richards Bay and Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Whether you’re contemplating your very first safari, or are trying to decide where your next one should be, Christine shares fascinating details and helpful tips from her adventures below.   

IMG_1197What are the lodge accommodations like?

These lodges are beautiful, very luxurious – without exaggeration. For example, at Pumba Water Lodge, every lodge was slightly different. The one I was in had this massive round bathtub, and a deck outside with a plunge pool – you can wake up and an elephant is drinking out of your plunge pool. It’s amazing. These are places you can come back to completely relax and rest after long game drives, total comfort. And it’s so unbelievably quiet, every little crack, stepping on a bush – you hear everything. Even though it’s an actual lodge, you hear everything.

How long are the game drives, and what did you see?
Typically, two or three hours, though it depends on what you encounter, the time of day and your escorts. When you go out on the early morning drives, they’ll have the croissants and coffee waiting for you beforehand and when you return, they have a nice big breakfast ready.

IMG_1020I was able to see everything – the Big Five! It was remarkable, even during the off-season.

We saw elephants, leopards, giraffes. We saw a lot of hyenas – you just see the eyes at night. And they travel in huge packs. We also saw a ton of buffalo. Lions, and then there were gazelles and warthogs everywhere.

What animal encounter or safari experience was most memorable?

IMG_0985Learning about the lions as I saw them. On the very first night we saw a lion – a female lion at Pumba Water Lodge. These animals fascinated me. Learning the fact that the female goes out and gets the kill, the male lion eats, and then when he’s done, she can eat, this was so interesting. And we saw that happening – the male having his dinner and then the female having hers. He protects her and the babies, that’s his territory. He’s the protector, but she feeds everyone.

With the overall safari experience, it’s just remarkable being out there. It’s like being on a different planet. You are so far removed from everyday life, it’s like just being dropped in the middle of nowhere – the noises, the smells, everything around you. It’s just incredible.

IMG_0980What were the rangers like?
The rangers are wonderful, they absolutely love what they do. They’re so enthusiastic and passionate about the animals and the nature. It’s truly amazing – you learn so much.

Tell us about the experience of being at one of the lodges at night.
Many of the lodges bring in local entertainment which is quite nice. Dancing and great music – it’s very festive and a lot of fun. Plus, there’s typically a little seating area around the fire, and you all sit around the campfire and have hot chocolate with marshmallows at night. It’s really nice. And then later, you are usually escorted to your own lodge. At Shamwari for example, all the lodges are separate and a bit spread out, so especially at night time, you are escorted. It’s right out in the middle of the bush – there are no fences. The escorts have torches and they take you right to your door.

IMG_1183What were the differences you noticed among the different safaris you went on?
Phinda was bigger than Shamwari, but it was still a private game reserve. At Phinda we also had a lovely open air dinner beneath the stars one night.Chobe, in Botswana, was very different from the area of the Eastern Cape lodges which were very green, very bushy. Chobe is also a national park, so you are restricted on where you can drive and you have to keep to the roads. Here the landscape is much more desert-like and barren, but we did see plenty of game – a lot more giraffes and other animals. Since it’s more open, you can see the animals more clearly. In Chobe, we also took a sunset cruise along Chobe River which was a special experience. Literally, you look to your left and it’s Namibia, and you look to your right and it’s Botswana. Then, you see the elephants coming down into the water, playing in the water. You get the chance to see a lot of elephants there in their natural environment – during the sunset, it’s really memorable.

IMG_1118Meanwhile, in the bush in Shamwari and Phinda, because they are private game reserves, there aren’t any restrictions on when or where you can go on drives. We drove into hyena dens, we went everywhere. You’re driving off-road at night and everything, it’s brilliant. And it’s more up and down and through the trees and foliage – it feels more like discovery. I recommend going on safaris in both of these regions (in Chobe and in the Eastern Cape) if you can – they are very different experiences.

What are your tips for first-time safari-goers?
Dress in layers – it’s cold in the morning and you’ll be going out early in the morning on game drives. On the safari trucks, they do have blankets as well because it’s quite cold when you go out at 5 a.m.

IMG_1165Pack lightly for the safari – just what you need. And no need for adapters. The majority of these lodges have sockets for every plug possible. That surprised even me. Then they are also well-equipped with hairdryers and dressing gowns and things like that.  

What left the deepest impression on you?
One of the most remarkable things is that there’s no light pollution there, so when you look up at the sky you see the Milky Way like you’ve never seen it before. It is simply amazing. I have never seen it like that in my life – not up in the mountains, not even out on the middle of the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, not even in the Amazon. That was one thing that really stood out to me – it was as if the sky were the light, streaming down. Just brilliant. 

May 20, 2015

Frank Hyder Launches Exclusive Art Installation Aboard Nautica

4P1A1655Upon entering Frank Hyder’s airy Wynwood studio in Miami, you are immediately greeted by an explosion of color – the great splashes of his iconic koi fish, the gold leaf backgrounds and dense jungle foliage, the tribal stripes and glowing figures. Then you notice the giant inflatable sculptures – one, a massive human head with a painted face and steady gaze, and the other, a poised killer whale with curious transparent circle on its chest.

4P1A1674The creator behind these provoking works, Frank, stands off to the right in paint spattered black jeans modestly adjusting the massive striped inflatable head as if it were an old friend. And in fact, these inflatable works are the culmination of decades of tireless work as an artist, his experimentation and mastery of a variety of mediums, and many years of travel and immersion in other cultures. As an award-winning artist with a true passion to share his work and knowledge, Frank has been an artist-in-residence and lecturer aboard Oceania Cruises for several years. Many guests may know him for his enchanting koi fish artwork featured on board. Now it is with great excitement that Oceania Cruises welcomes Frank aboard Nautica today to launch a very special inflatable sculpture installation – which has never before been outside of the U.S.     

4P1A1628Just before Frank caught his flight to Istanbul to launch this exciting installation during Nautica’s Exotic Mediterranean sailing, we had the chance to catch up with him in his studio in Miami where he shared some fascinating insight behind his inflatable sculptures and what makes them so compelling to create.

Behind the Scenes: Frank’s Inflatable Sculptures
Frank has been experimenting with the inflatable form since 2008, and was later invited to join a group of artists that were doing a group exhibit of inflatable sculptures in Bayfront Park during Art Basel in Miami. The group exhibit was entitled “City of Giants” and featured towering inflatables of up to 30 feet.

4P1A1619“From the very first moment I started working with them, I felt that there was something there,” he said. “And I’ve been around awhile, and when I know something’s there – it’s there,” he added, laughing.

Distinct from other inflatable pieces being created in the art world, Frank’s inflatable sculptures can be placed indoors; “Janis” (the giant head) is about 10 feet tall. Plus, he paints them – something no one else is doing right now.

“What I’m doing is something between the painting and the sculpture,” he explained. “It’s meant to be a livable size; someone could literally have this in their home if they wanted,” he continued, gestured towards “Janis.”

One of the elements of the form that immediately appealed to Frank was that he could make monumental works that he could compress into a bag, and then he could hop onto a plane and go anywhere in the world with them.

“The idea that these things can actually travel and do something in different places is really, for me, kind of fun,” Frank said. “Not just fun, it puts art in a different context – you might encounter this in the street and suddenly you’re thinking about something very differently.”

Frank also sees the inflatables that he creates as connected to monumental works throughout the world – the mysterious Easter Island moai statues, the colossal heads of Olmec, Mexico and even Egyptian monuments.

“They’re a tribute to our ability to make something extraordinary, and at the same time, they create something that has a personal meaning,” Frank said.

4P1A1651The Janis:  Embodying the Past & Future
Based on the Roman god Janus, Frank’s piece, "Janis," aptly bears two distinct faces – each with different colors and types of tribal painting, unique earrings and different eyes. Since Janus was the Roman god of the New Year (and gives us the name of the first month of the year, January), he had two faces so that he could look forward and backwards.

“He could see the old year passing and see the future coming,” Frank explained, rotating the giant figure to reveal the different face on the reverse.

Frank chose to use a tribal paint style to finish the piece for a few reasons. He has spent a significant amount of time in South America, and has done a number of paintings utilizing the tribal striping for which he has become quite well-known. When he encountered the tribal face and body painting in South America, he remembers inquiring about the meaning behind it. He was struck by how much the response was rooted in the universal human instinct to “dress up” the face before facing the world.


“The idea of self-painting comes from the fact that the people don’t see themselves as being beautiful. They wouldn’t go out without painting their faces.” Frank said. “And who among you would leave your house without doing a face painting job?” he continued, laughing. “Whether you are modern or ancient, it’s such a pervasive activity – it’s human impulse.”

Frank’s Journey Continues
After Nautica’s voyage from Istanbul to Lisbon, Frank is excited to continue his journey with Oceania Cruises. He will not only be sharing his unique art installation aboard several Marina and Riviera voyages this summer, but also his  knowledge and passion that shape his work and everything he creates.

4P1A1666“I am very fortunate – I am doing exactly what I wanted to do when I was 19 years old,” Frank said. “I have traveled all over the world, seen so many things, done so many things, met so many people -- all because of this thing that I like to do with my hands, and that’s very special to me.”

During all of the voyages below, Frank will also be hosting engaging lectures on wide ranging topics such as “Caves to Cathedrals: Europe’s Architecture of Faith” and “Hellenism: The Phalanx of Ideas.” Plus, Frank invites you to drop by the Artist Loft to say hello or attend one of his special workshops. Don’t miss the chance to meet Frank and experience his one-of-a-kind art installation on board with us this summer!

Riviera’s Ancient Empires voyage | June 1, 2015
Riviera’s Pearls of the Mediterranean voyage | June 16, 2015
Riviera’s Masterpiece Montage voyage | June 28, 2015
Riviera’s Iberian Inspiration voyage | July 7, 2015
Marina’s British Isles Medley voyage | July 21, 2015
Marina’s Nordic Pathways voyage | August 2, 2015
Marina’s Baltic Marvels voyage | August 14, 2015

Visit Frank Hyder’s website at:

May 18, 2015

An Art Walk in Riga

An Art Walk in RigaArt enthusiasts Vanessa and Robert C., spent a summer vacation cruising through majestic Northern Europe aboard Marina. Impressed with the architecture throughout the Baltic, the capital of Latvia quickly became one of their favorite ports of call.

An Art Walk in RigaRiga was such a wonderful surprise for my husband and I—it was one of the most strikingly beautiful destinations on our Baltic cruise. We admired the unique history and style introduced by each port as we sailed from Copenhagen to Stockholm aboard Marina in the summer — but the capital of Latvia left a big impression. 

An Art Walk in RigaAs a fan of art and architecture, I was impressed with the diversity of style in Riga. I had never seen Art Nouveau architecture in such abundance. I’ve always admired this style of painting and drawing (Mucha, Klimt, Toulouse-Lautrec) as well as the jewelry and glass works (Tiffany, Lalique). Yes, there are well-known structures in Paris, like the Metro entrances. Perhaps Antoni Gaudí’s work in Barcelona is the most well-known, but the rich style in Riga allows it to be considered one of the best hubs of the romantic style of Art Nouveau.

An Art Walk in RigaWe decided to explore Riga on our own. We strolled through the historic center and saw the famous House of the Blackheads. Then we walked through a lovely park along the Daugava river, which runs through the middle of Riga, but didn't see many buildings with the Art Nouveau style, so we headed toward an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood. We started walking north along the boulevards of Riga, where the architecture started to transform from Gothic into the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries' Art Nouveau.

An Art Walk in RigaIt was a quiet neighborhood with mostly locals, so it was nice to get a feel for the sights and sounds of daily life in Riga. The buildings were so striking we walked around the entire area to see each detail. Building after building had gorgeous faces decorating every window and some had statues that looked like they were holding up the building or terraces. The colors were bold and beautiful against the summer sun.

With so much beauty  and history to explore and admire, it’s no wonder Riga was once called the “Paris of the Baltics,” though for us, Riga is quite unique and impressive on its own. 

May 14, 2015

Modern Luxury Meets Old World Charm in Dubai

Modern Luxury Meets Old World Charm in DubaiIn just the past few decades, ultra-sleek architecture has sprung from the desert coastline of the Persian Gulf, giving rise to the gleaming metropolis of Dubai.

Notorious for lavish hotels, luxury shopping and futuristic high-rise steel and glass buildings, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates mixes opulence with age-old Arabic culture including gold and textile souqs, fragrant spice markets and pearl diving from its pre-oil days. 

Below are five ways to experience the contrasting aspects of this multi-faceted destination.

Modern Luxury Meets Old World Charm in DubaiDesert Dune Safari

Enjoy breathtaking climbs up the face of soft sand dunes, followed by sheer descents as you experience what’s referred to as dune bashing. As your skilled driver negotiates a course through the desert in a 4x4, you'll be treated to spectacular panoramic views of this magnificent vast landscape of golden sands.

 Modern Dubai with Tea at Burj Al Arab Hotel

Modern Luxury Meets Old World Charm in DubaiTravel to the world-renowned seven-star Burj Al Arab, the city's most notable landmark and perhaps one of the most popular hotels in the world, for delicious high tea and a selection of freshly baked treats. Built on an artificial island and designed to resemble the sail of a traditional Arabic dhow, Burj Al Arab is considered both an engineering feat and architectural marvel.

Sharjah Heritage

Visit Dubai's neighboring emirate, Sharjah, referred to as the Pearl of the Gulf. Drive from Port Rashid to the northern coast and Sharjah, the third largest of the seven emirates. Recognized as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO, it boasts some of the most remarkable architecture in the country and the largest mosque in the UAE, the King Faisal Mosque.

Modern Luxury Meets Old World Charm in DubaiWalking Tour of Old Dubai

Spend time in Old Dubai, which stands in stark contrast to the gleaming high-rise buildings that define the city. Don’t miss Bastakia – as part of Old Dubai, it’s one of the most picturesque historical sites in the city and has been designated as a heritage area. Many of its vintage homes and wind towers have undergone renovations in the last few years and its narrow alleyways have been designated as pedestrian thoroughfares.

Discover Dubai

Explore all that Dubai has to offer on this half-day excursion. Begin with photo opportunities at the dazzling Burj Al Arab and the stunning Jumeirah Mosque, an impressive example of Islamic architecture. Visit the Dubai Museum, located in the 200-year-old Fort Fahidi, followed by a photo stop at the beautifully restored former residence of Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai until 1958. End with a visit to the Gold and Spice Souqs.

What do you look forward to exploring the most on your visit to Dubai? 

May 13, 2015

Eggplant Involtini Alla Parmigiana Recipe

Recipe-eggplant-parmWho doesn’t love Italian cuisine, especially in the springtime? Eggplant is abundant in Italy, particularly in the south, and there are so many ways to utilize this purple (and sometimes white) plant.  Involtini is a favorite of our onboard restaurant, Toscana. I sometimes make it without the meat on my “meatless Mondays,” and I love the way the flavor of the smoky mozzarella comes through. I substitute sautéed or grilled portabella mushroom pieces for the meat. Mortadella is one of my favorite meats – it reminds me of the great bologna and mortadella sandwiches that my grandmother used to pack me for lunch with her homemade white bread and mayonnaise (never store bought). In the summer, we used to add tomatoes and toast the bread for the perfect sandwich!

{ makes 12 rolls, serves 4 to 6 }


2 large eggplants, each at least 7 inches long

Kosher or sea salt

Extra virgin olive oil


8 ounces ground veal

4 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch pieces

3 tablespoons whole milk

4 slices mortadella, each 1/8-inch thick, cut into 1/8-inch dice (about ½ cup)

4 slices mozzarella, each 1/8-inch thick, cut into 1/8-inch dice (about ½ cup)

2½ tablespoons finely chopped garlic

1 large egg

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Canola oil

2 cups tomato sauce

6 thin slices smoked mozzarella cheese

For the eggplant: Cut both eggplants lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Choose the 12 largest slices that are closest in size to one another. Reserve the remaining eggplant for another use.

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt on each pan. Arrange the eggplant slices on the salt and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt over the eggplant on each pan. Let sit for 30 minutes.

For the stuffing: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Using your hands, mix well until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

To assemble: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill, or preheat a two-burner grill pan over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack or grill pan with canola oil. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Using paper towels, blot the excess moisture from the eggplant slices, then lightly brush the slices on both sides with olive oil. Place on the grill rack or grill pan. Grill, turning once, until well marked on both sides and the slices are more pliable for rolling. This should take 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer the slices to a work surface.

Spread half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9-inch-square flameproof baking dish or other flameproof baking dish that will snugly accommodate the 12 rolls in a single layer.

Lay 1 slice of eggplant running vertically in front of you. Place about ¼ cup of the stuffing on the slice about 2 inches from the short end nearest you, shaping the stuffing so it is about 1 inch wide. Bring the end up over the stuffing, then roll up the slice, enclosing the stuffing completely. Place in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and stuffing. Top with the remaining tomato sauce.

Bake until the eggplant is tender and the filling is hot, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil.

To finish and serve: Top the rolls with the smoked mozzarella, draping 1 slice over every 2 rolls. Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly toasted. Serve directly from the baking dish, or divide among individual serving plates.

May 6, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Strolling the Gems of Castries in an Hour

Guest lecturer Sandy Cares’ animated and entertaining talks about people and events reveal colorful and unexpected aspects of the destination’s history, culture and traditions. Sandy has been lecturing aboard Oceania Cruises throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014. Below, she shares her experience in the quaint capital of St. Lucia.

There is nothing to see in Castries, St. Lucia…or is there?

The little capital of arguably the most picturesque island in the West Indies typically merits a mere passing glance from the flotilla of tour buses that whisk by en route to more scenic destinations. A devastating fire gutted the city in 1948, leaving just a handful of landmarks so it typically doesn’t take much more than an hour to check out Castries – though there are several gems worth discovering.

1Castries today is actually a hubbub of activity as tourists and locals interact in a kabuki dance wending and weaving their respective ways along crowded sidewalks amidst lively streams of human and vehicular traffic. Hawkers lining the curbs offer up tempting displays of tropical fruits, homemade sweets and ice creams, necklaces and eye-catching souvenirs, conch shells, fresh coconut water, and of course the island’s pride, fragrant ripe bananas. They even sell little glass bottles of banana ketchup, an island novelty, and other banana-based products including banana soaps and skin creams, along with banana liqueur.

2Soon I am in front of the open doors of an imposing stone church that survived the fire and seems more suited to a French provincial town than in this tropical setting. Inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception the neat rows of polished wooden pews can accommodate over 2,000 worshippers but only a scant couple dozen worshippers are scattered here and there in quiet contemplation.  As the spiritual center for Catholics (Catholicism is the major religion of this island), the cathedral stands as a reminder of the French cultural influence when the island changed hands 14 times between the French and British during colonial times.

4St. Lucia gained its status as an independent member of the British Commonwealth in 1979.

As my eyes adjust from the glaring sunshine outside, the interior walls of the Immaculate Conception explode in a riot of unexpected tropical colors.  Convinced this is one of Castries’s secret gems, I am already rewarded for my decision to explore the town.  In 1985 in anticipation of Pope John Paul II’s visit, local St. Lucian artist Dunstan St. Omer painted these walls using a vibrant West Indian palette to showcase black saints and black martyrs in homage to the island’s African slave legacy. It was Dunstan St. Omer that also designed St. Lucia’s blue, white, black and gold national flag.

5Directly across the street, a big and preposterously old Saman tree waves me into Derek Walcott Square.  Once called Columbus Square, this green space graced with a central fountain is a favorite gathering spot for locals.  It was renamed to honor Derek Walcott, hometown hero and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Walcott’s epic poem, Omeros, is loosely patterned after Homer’s ancient Greek works, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and gives voice to the millions brought to the Caribbean region against their will who sought a distinctly Caribbean identity. 

6Throughout the poem, he celebrates the natural beauty of St. Lucia and compares her to Helen of Troy, also fought over for her beauty.  In fact, St. Lucia was at times referred to as “the Helen of the West Indies.” A statue in the park immortalizes Walcott, born in 1930. He built his career at Boston University, and nowadays, the occasional Walcott sighting assures locals that he is enjoying a well-earned retirement in his native land. 

But Walcott’s is not the only statue in Derek Walcott Square. Remarkably enough, this little island of some 170,000 produced not one, but two Nobel Laureates.  Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Sir Arthur Lewis brought home the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979. 

In a coincidence that Charles Dickens would savor, both Nobel Laureates were born on the same day, January 23rd, fifteen years apart. Today, their statues appear to stand about fifteen feet apart.

7Nearby, a gracious red brick building with emphatic white trim dignifies the street corner.  This is the Central Library, a Victorian-era building that survived the fire of 1948. Castries boasts no city or national museum, but the famous Castries Market is a lively center of commercial and social activity that might well serve as the island’s contemporary museum of living art. 

Housed under conjoined red roofs, the stalls spilling into the sidewalks offer everything from bananas and bush medicines to carved wooden masks, coconut bird feeders and clay coal pots.  Vendors eager to bargain down to a sale typically post prices in U.S. dollars instead of the local Eastern Caribbean currency as a convenience for North American visitors. 

While it might not offer the majesty of the twin-peaked Pitons or the exotic appeal of the black sand beaches or the historic impact of Fort Rodney, the little island capital of Castries does offer a few memorable gems.  And they were all in a pleasant hour’s stroll with plenty of time to return to the awaiting Riviera.

May 4, 2015

Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef Kelly

Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef KellyGuests aboard Riviera recently learned why Liguria is considered one of the stars of Italian cuisine. Nestled between the Mediterranean coastline and the majestic Alps, Liguria is known for cuisine that equally celebrates the mountains and the sea.  Known as “the land of pesto,” Liguria is home to the fragrant Genovese basil, sumptuous pine nut and aromatic garlic – which when mixed together with their fragrant olive oil – yields the “green gold” of Liguria: pesto. 

2We began our Culinary Discovery Tour in the picturesque seaside town of Rapallo. Arriving here, we were greeted by Guido, a local culinary expert holding a basketful of fresh local basil – perfect for his pesto demonstration. Guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at a local pasta maker preparing the day’s fresh pasta and the added treat of the shop owner explaining each of the various pastas being made that morning. Then we strolled on to a gourmet shop, Parla Come Mangi, for tastings of balsamic vinegar and local olive oils.  We enjoyed taking in the sights and smells of this authentic Ligurian shop, which was overflowing with cured meats, artisanal cheeses and freshly made pastas.  Many of our guests took the occasion to select Ligurian extra virgin olive oils to reproduce the perfect Ligurian pesto (and memories) at home. 

          Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef Kelly     Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef Kelly    Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef Kelly

Portofino Culinary Discovery Tour Spotlight: In the Land of Pesto By Chef KellyOn our way back to the bus, we had a lovely stroll through Rapallo and the local market there, which was brimming with seasonal favorites such as fragoline, tiny Italian strawberries, and perfect little eggplants. I purchased several vegetables such as fava beans, artichokes and fresh peas for the guests to admire.

We were then off to the delightful town of Recco, and Da Ö Vittoriö, a fourth-generation family restaurant where we actually met the owner and his grandson (fifth generation) at the front entrance. After their warm greeting, a master pasta chef did impressive demonstrations on preparing fresh pasta, along with one on the regional specialty for which Da Ö Vittoriö is famous: focaccia. This is not the typical focaccia bread – they cover a large pizza-like pan with a thin layer of dough, dot it with stracchino cheese and then cover it with another layer of thin dough.  Then, it’s baked in a wood-fired oven, and is served as a delicious appetizer, a true specialty of Liguria.     

8As we watched the demonstration, we all enjoyed fritters with a local sparkling wine.  Many guests tried their hand at making trofie – a local corkscrew-like pasta served with pesto.

After the demonstration, we were treated to a lunch of focaccia, fresh pasta with pesto and noci (walnut) sauce, along with sea bass, Branzino, which was cooked Ligurian-style with olive oil and served with cherry tomatoes, olives, pine nuts and potatoes. We finished our meal with a light dessert and coffee, and said a fond farewell to our friends at Da Ö Vittoriö.  

May 1, 2015

Oceania Insider: Air Travel Tips

AirplaneDid you know that during any given hour, an average of 61,000 people are airborne over the U.S.?

There’s no doubt some of those travelers are Oceania Cruises guests – and Oceania Cruises staff members too, since we share in your passion for exploring the world.

Below are 10 air travel tips from our team to help make your next flying experience a smooth one!


1. Sign up for mileage clubs to earn quick upgrades and perks on board the plane. 
James Rodriguez, Chief Marketing Officer

2. Get into the security line with the fewest children and mostly business people – it goes faster as they are well-traveled.
– Nikki Upshaw, Vice President of Sales

3. Remember to drink plenty of water before your flight to avoid dehydration during it.  
Antonio Suarez, Software Engineer III

4. Don’t leave home without noise cancelling headphones – very important! I use “Beats by Dre” and they work very well.
–Azucena Argudin, Administrative Assistant

5. Arrive at least a few hours early for your international flight so you can check-in early and have time to relax before your flight.
–Carla Villacreces, Digital Production Coordinator

6. For longer flights, make sure to walk around and keep the circulation flowing
–Heidi Soloway, Director of Marketing Communications

7. Enjoy a nice cocktail in the air to smooth the nerves and start enjoying your vacation. 
–Val Mahones, Supervisor of Facilities

8. Make sure you buy your plane ticket under the name exactly as it appears on your identification card. Also, keep all of your documents in one easily-accessible location. 
–Martha Amador, Manager of Creative Services  

9. Avoid putting valuables or critical items, like medicines or keys, in a checked bag; instead pack them in your carry-on.
–Yami Serrano, Human Resources Generalist

10. Be aware of all foreign document requirements before you make your flight reservation or you could get stuck at the airport. Double-check the ports on your cruise itinerary, as many of the ports we visit require visas for entry.
Giannina Poloney, Account Executive

What are some of the air travel tips you live by?  

April 27, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Artist Loft: The Best Job Ever

Behind the Scenes at Artist Loft: The Best Job EverAn artist-in-residence with Oceania Cruises since 2011, Pat Grillo is an award-winning artist who has exhibited and sold her work across the country and to private collectors throughout the world. While living in southern Florida, her work was exhibited in museums and galleries in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Coral Springs and Boca Raton.

She now lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, near Asheville, where she continues to teach and paint. As a contemporary realist, Pat aims to bring a sense of proportion and light to the canvas. Her work embodies a balance of realism and vibrant color that encourages the viewer to see everyday objects in new ways. Pat’s husband, Angelo, shares a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be an artist-in-residence at Artist Loft on board.

Imagine the best job ever. Imagine spending three to four months a year sailing the world, as a guest, aboard a luxurious Oceania Cruises ship. The Mediterranean, the Greek Isles, the Caribbean, the Baltic Sea, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Vietnam, Bora Bora and Tahiti – these are just some of the destinations to which these five-star ships sail.

Behind the Scenes at Artist Loft: The Best Job EverLake Lure artist Pat Grillo does just that. She is an artist-in-residence for Oceania Cruises – the only cruise line that offers complimentary art lessons, with all supplies included, by a professionally recognized artist. For the last five years, Pat has been traveling the world, painting and teaching art. Her works now hang in homes, businesses and galleries throughout the world.

Of course, the first questions she gets are “How did you get this gig?” and then, “Do you need someone to carry your bags?” Her husband has the bag handling assignment locked up, but to answer the first question, Oceania Cruises seeks out the best artists they can find, who can also teach and are ridiculously personable. Oceania Cruises discovered Pat through her website and the rest is history.

How does an artist-in-residence spend her time at sea? Well it’s actually quite hectic. Most days are spent at a storybook port such as Marseilles, Dubrovnik, Rio de Janeiro or Bora Bora. Pat is up by 7 am to escort a group of guests on a tour. Then, she heads back to the ship for a quick bite and to prepare for her 4 pm class. The complimentary class of 25 to 35 students lasts about 90 minutes and, in this timeframe, everyone completes a work of art that is framed and hung for the duration of the voyage. 

Behind the Scenes at Artist Loft: The Best Job EverAfter the class, there’s still time to catch the end of happy hour in one of the ship’s swinging lounges. By about 7:30 pm, everyone moves on to dinner in one of the specialty restaurants, the Grand Dining Room or the outdoor Terrace Café for a sumptuous buffet. 

Time for bed yet?  No way. 

At 9:30 pm, there’s always a show in the main theater featuring the ships wonderfully talented troupe or an invited entertainer. 

Is it time for bed now? 

Behind the Scenes at Artist Loft: The Best Job EverOnly if you choose. Otherwise there’s dancing, karaoke, musical trivia and, of course, the casino. All of which are open till the last guest calls it a night.  

Days at sea are a bit more leisurely. On a sea day, Pat will usually open Artist Loft to guests while she paints and coaches. The music is relaxing and the poolside bar is only a wave away.

When asked what is the best part of her job, she responds that she has received emails from former student guests who had never picked up a brush before attending her classes sharing that they are now painting in earnest. Many of her students so enjoy her classes that before they schedule another Oceania Cruises voyage, they check to see if Pat will be on board. It seems that a surprising number of the guests have previously cruised with Oceania Cruises. 

Pat will be the featured artist-in-residence this summer on Insignia’s Polynesian Treasures, Pacific Crossing and Summer Shores. She invites you to join her on the high seas soon!