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

5

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

6

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.

 

 

CHEF KELLY’S HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH HERBS & WHITE TRUFFLE FOR TWO

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.

JacquesSailing-MalagaMarket

JacquesSailing-ElTintero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/15070218/277e9f43-f4ae-488f-9c74-32937b030653.pngThe 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: http://denisonart.com/

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.

MAKES 2 CUPS

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.

4P1A1642

“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: http://www.frankhyder.com/

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 }

EGGPLANT

2 large eggplants, each at least 7 inches long

Kosher or sea salt

Extra virgin olive oil

STUFFING

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!

April 24, 2015

Guest Lecturer Spotlight: The Travel Secrets of Eve & Ronald Jones

Guest lecturers Eve Jones and her husband, hotelier Ronald F. Jones OBE (Order of the British Empire) have spent the past 16 years travelling the world as lecturers.

1As a wine tutor and an award-winning writer specializing in hotels, restaurants and travel, she has written features for The Times, the New Orleans and Los Angeles Times, and served as the wine tutor at Marlborough College Summer School for ten years (where Kate Middleton and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were pupils). Meanwhile, Ronald is one of Britain’s best-known hoteliers. He got his start in the hotel industry when World War 2 was in full swing, and secured a job as an accounts clerk at the then ultra-luxury Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. He ascended through the ranks, citing stimulus rather than ambition as the “hunger,” so beginning a 55-year love affair with hotels.

2Eve and Ronald’s backgrounds lend themselves well to joint ventures, and they’ve enjoyed working together so much that they have co-authored several books: Grand Hotelier:Inside the Best Hotels, Grand Hotelier: The World on a Plate, Gastromania! for lovers of food, wine – and trivia, and The Log of the Seafaring Bears for very young readers. With their fascinating backgrounds, the Joneses’ lecture topics range from royal banquets and jazz to wine and the rich social histories of the areas in which ship is traveling. Below, they share their travel secrets – how they enjoy their favorite destinations, their top picks for restaurants and more!

Destination Secrets of Hotel & Wine Connoisseurs
Cruising has enabled Eve and Ronald to experience a taste of life on every continent. The couple recommends the Norwegian Fjords for pristine beauty and St. Petersburg for its over-the-top architecture, and superb art, music and ballet scene. And after so many years of traveling where do they choose to visit again and again?  Venice is one that tops the list.

“Gliding along the Grand Canal and sticky-beaking into the salons of the palazzi, strolling in St. Mark’s Square in the early morning…it’s a travel experience you never forget,” Eve said.

Sometimes they stay at the Cipriani in Venice, but Eve noted that renting an apartment can be even more enjoyable because of the way it connects you to local life. “Shopping for fresh food in the market, trips to the laundromat with the locals, fresh seafood in the local trattoria – our idea of heaven,” she said.

3Eve recalled one year that they managed to stay in Venice for six weeks during the Christmas holiday season. “It was cold, crisp…the whole city perfectly gift-wrapped for Christmas and very few tourists. Bliss,” she said.

Eve and Ronald also appreciate the beauty of Sydney Harbour – and city’s fabulous food and wine, not to mention the affordable price of the opera tickets.

“It’s such a vibrant, laid-back city with a rich cultural life, filled with art galleries, museums, history, and above all, we’re able to go to the opera several times a week for the price of tickets for one performance at Covent Garden!” Eve remarked.

The World’s Most Memorable Restaurants
According to Eve and Ronald, dining at some of the most memorable restaurants sometimes doesn’t even involve a menu. Such is the case in Kusadasi, Turkey.

“There’s a little family restaurant on the quayside, a couple of tables practically on the water,” Eve recalled. “No menu, no choice – if you’re in the know. Just leave it to the owner and he’ll bring crisp salad, freshly baked bread, and then the morning’s catch, grilled with hot, crisp golden fries and bottle of chilled local white wine. Perfection.”

Meanwhile, their local London favorites include Brasserie Colbert in Sloane Square for breakfast, lunch at Pierre Koffmann at the Berkeley and dinner at Le Gavroche or Mosimann’s Club.  In Scotland, the Joneses love Tom Kitchin’s, near where our ships dock in Leith. 

“He’s a great chef, and the food is superb, all sourced within a few miles of Edinburgh,” Eve noted.  

In their treasured Venice, Eve and Ronald never tire of lunch at Da Fiori.

“It’s unfussy, relaxed…the seafood so fresh it’s still wriggling, the spumante crisp and dry, completed by the theatre of Venice’s business movers and shakers who appreciate the importance of a darn good lunch,” Eve said. “And then we stop for Negronis later at Harry’s Bar, of course!” 

4The couple is also fond of simply asking local business people where they like to eat, especially in Asia and the Middle East. “We don’t ask for the smartest or most expensive, just a family restaurant or a spot for a working-week lunch or dinner,” Eve explained. “That’s where we go and we have seldom been let down.”

The onboard restaurants are also a part of what Eve and Ronald enjoy so much about Oceania Cruises.

“If Michelin stars were awarded to ships, Oceania Cruises surely deserves them,” Eve said. “To have the choice of six restaurants, each serving fabulous food.”

Eve and Ronald invite you to trade travel secrets and favorites this fall -- join them aboard Marina’s Vineyards & Vistas voyage, departing September 2, 2015!

April 22, 2015

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea Imagine you found yourself on a cruise in the middle of the great blue Atlantic with several leisurely days at sea stretching out before you. How would you spend your days? Would you brush up on your bridge and trivia skills? Would you curl up with that book you’ve been wanting to read? Or would you don a chef hat and apron, and learn how to cook like a pro?

During Riviera’s recent transatlantic crossing to Europe, about a dozen of our guests opted for a true culinary immersion – taking part in our first-ever Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaOur Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Enrichment, Kathryn Kelly, crafted this new intensive program based on her experience teaching boot camps at the Culinary Institute of America, which were always one of her favorite courses. The goals of the new Culinary Boot Camp at Sea center on in-depth and personalized instruction in fundamental culinary areas such as knife skills, protein cookery, vegetable cookery, baking basics and mise en place (kitchen organization and food preparation).  

“I also wanted guests to have some fun, so we created a market basket exercise at the end of the boot camp where guests make a dish judged by the Executive Chef and General Manager,” Chef Kelly added.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaDuring the course of four cooking class sessions spread throughout two days, Chef Noelle Barille & Chef Kellie Evans provided hands-on classes on essentials within the  fundamental areas of cooking. They also drilled down on the techniques for a number of cooking methods such as sautéing, grilling, roasting, shallow poaching and deep poaching.

One of the participating guests, Barbara Fox, appreciated how effectively the boot camp tied techniques and methods together for her. “It is like an exam – the light bulb kept going off. It brought everything together from the other classes,” she said.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaThe culinary immersion culminated with a Pro Chef practical exam on the second day, evaluated by Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti and General Manager Damien Lacroix. The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to the preparation, execution and evaluation which focused on two dishes. One dish was required to include a protein that the guests had selected out of a hat – to make things even more exciting!

Chef Quaretti shared that they sampled a variety of dishes prepared by the guests such as fresh spring rolls, chicken with grilled vegetables, poached salmon with rice, grilled prawns and many others.

“Damien and I judged the different flavors of the dishes, the presentation and the originality,” Chef Quaretti said. “Some guests receive the highest score – three stars for a master chef – we were quite impressed with some of the recipes!”

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaDamien remarked on what a wonderful experience it was to see what guests were able to do with their market basket of ingredients after two days of intensive cooking classes – which isn’t to say he was easy judge.

“My first comment to the guests was: ‘Do not think that because you are my guests, I will be any more tolerant or any less critical of your work,’…with a big smile on my face, of course!” he said, laughing.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaThough the program was rigorous – a true cooking immersion program – the days certainly were filled with laughter and fun. One guest, Hank Semmelhack, remarked that he knew they would continue enjoying all that they had learned beyond the cruise. “My wife and I love it!!  We will take the lessons and skills home to have more fun and amaze our family and friends,” he said.

This fall, Riviera’s Atlantic Horizons, along with Marina’s Passage of the Explorers and Southern Seas voyages will all be featuring our new and exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program. Chef Kelly and The Culinary Center faculty invite you to join them during one of these upcoming transoceanic voyages for an unforgettable culinary experience!

April 17, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?

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 Cares with the infamous bronze Mark Twain statue in Hamilton, Bermuda
Sandy Cares with the infamous bronze Mark Twain statue in Hamilton, Bermuda

Whether you are heading out for an action-filled adventure or are just planning to “lime away” at the beach, she encourages you not to leave the ship without knowing the “story behind the story!” 

Drawing from stories by local authors as she weaves in anecdotes from travel and life, Sandy combines meticulous research with effervescent enthusiasm and humor for a fresh and fun twist to understanding and appreciating Bermuda and Caribbean destinations. Sandy has been lecturing aboard Oceania Cruises ships throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014 and hopes to meet you soon.

Below, Sandy shares her fascinating experience of the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich in western Belize while recently lecturing aboard Riviera.

“How do you say Xunantunich?” our local guide asks, teasing us as we settle in for our ride across Belize to visit this exquisite Mayan ruin. 

“We just call it tuna sandwich,” she giggles. That works for us just fine.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Arriving at our first stop, the coach pulls off where our group will traverse the short distance across the Mopan River on an old hand-cranked ferry, a quick journey that adds lots of local color to our adventure.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Once on the other side, we ascend to the entrance of the Xunantunich ruins. The ancient Mayan world spanned the five modern nations of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize, and Mayan ruins abound throughout this realm. Belize’s Xunantunich, or “Stone Woman,” lies about 80 miles west of Belize City and flourished from about AD 600-750 when it was mysteriously abandoned. In its heyday, the population of Belize’s area may have reached 200,000 and Xunantunich served as an important ceremonial site for the region.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Xunantunich provides examples of some of the major Mayan accomplishments, particularly in architecture, astronomy and art. But before we arrive at the imposing El Castillo, our guide leads us past a small hill overgrown with grass and tells us about metaphorical daggers with which the notorious Thomas Gann explored this site in the mid-1800s. Thomas Gann was a physician by training but also a self-described archaeologist who used questionable methods to excavate archaeological sites. Specifically, dynamite!  We can only wonder what treasures may have been lost forever.

The first sight of the imposing El Castillo takes my breath away. The photos I have seen only serve to confirm that I am actually looking at the selfsame site, but photos do not compare to the visual display impacting me now. The stark white of the famous Xunantunich Frieze stands out like brightly flashing teeth.

The frieze, or long band of deeply sculpted limestone, spans the entire length of the monument with stunning glyphs and clearly executed images. One of these depicts the Mayan Tree of Life, central to the Mayan world vision and their creation beliefs.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Another repeated pattern looks like stylized owl-eyes and I ask the guide if that symbol stands for the planet Venus, which he confirms. The Maya kept a “weather eye” on Venus, which portended war and death and other bad things in stark contrast to our own perception of Venus as the Goddess of Love, and bringer of valentines and cupid.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?I walk up a flight of stairs to scan other temples and palaces of this ancient city center with the jungle of Guatemala looming beyond. It isn’t hard to imagine what power an ancient Mayan ruler would have felt – and exuded – from this privileged vantage point. Behind me little cubbies with shelves carved into the rock once served as royal beds mere steps away from a sheer vertical drop – unforgiving for a sleepwalker!

I have no intention of climbing to the very top of this incredibly high monument whose height of 130 feet makes it Belize’s second-tallest Mayan structure.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?But an inquiry to the guide about what’s at the top stops me cold. “A corbel vault,” she answers casually.  “A corbel vault?!” I echo excitedly. I am ignited. I did not come all this way to miss out on an up-close-and-personal encounter with an actual Mayan corbel vault, so up I go!

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?The corbel vault, also known as the Mayan Arch, is a narrow, peaked arch that was used to bear a great deal of weight over constricted interior spaces like tunnels and was created using nine stone layers to represent the nine levels of the ancient Mayan underworld. While the Romans made widespread use of the corbel arch, and it found its way into the European churches of the Middle Ages, the Maya came by this architectural “invention” in isolation of any knowledge from older European civilizations. The Mayan version of the corbel vault was as ceremonial as it was structurally useful.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?After clicking my camera at every possible angle for that “perfect shot” of the corbel vault, I begin the inevitable descent and concede it will be trickier going down these steep steps than it was coming up. I approach the venture the safest way I know how in the absence of handrails: cheek-by-cheek and very slowly. The guide reassures me they do not permit visitors to ascend the monument on rainy days.

Crossing the Mopan River one last time on that quaint hand-cranked ferry, we stop to select a souvenir or two from the colorful vendor stalls conveniently situated on the riverbank. We board the coach for the ride back to the awaiting Riviera after spending a memorable January day at…how do you say? "Shoo-nan-too-nitch," yes, Xunantunich.

But first we will stop for some well-deserved lunch. Tuna sandwich, anyone?! 

April 15, 2015

The Culinary Center Welcomes Chef Kellie Evans

The Culinary Center recently welcomed one of our newest chef instructors, Kellie EvansThe Culinary Center recently welcomed one of our newest chef instructors, Kellie Evans, aboard Riviera. With a fascinatingly diverse culinary background, Chef Evans brings a wealth of knowledge to The Culinary Center and is very excited to join us. Most recently she created over 2,500 recipes for print, website and cookbooks as a food editor for Saveur magazine. Chef Evans is also the featured instructor in a series of technique videos for Saveur, which she produced. As Executive Chef for a catering enterprise in New York, Chef Evans headed a team that serviced the productions of “Boardwalk Empire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Sesame Street,” “Blue Bloods” and “30 Rock.” She has also been a food stylist and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York. 

Chef Kellie Evans & Chef Noelle Barille roll sushi and prepare for classes in Riviera’s Culinary Center.
Chef Kellie Evans & Chef Noelle Barille roll sushi and prepare for classes in Riviera’s Culinary Center.

As Riviera arrives in Europe, Chef Evans, along with Chef Noelle Barille, have been busy teaching a number of new and fresh culinary classes, including Rock the Wok, in which you master high-heating cooking techniques along with some sushi-rolling tricks.

Below is one of Chef Evans’ favorite sushi recipes from The Culinary Center.

SPICY TUNA ROLL

(MAKES 2 ROLLS)

4 ounces sushi-grade tuna

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

2 teaspoons green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 sheet nori

Tezu (handwater): ¼ cup water and 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1¼ cups sushi rice

2 tablespoons sesame seeds         

Spicy mayo: ¼ cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon sriracha

Bamboo sushi mat covered in plastic wrap

Dice the tuna into ¼ inch cubes. In a glass bowl, add the sriracha sauce, 1 teaspoon of green onion and the sesame oil. Then add the tuna, and mix.

SushiLay a sheet of nori shiny side down on the prepared bamboo sushi mat. Wet your fingers with the Tezu and pat down ¾ cup of the sushi rice on nori. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Turn the nori and rice over with the rice side down and align the edge of the nori with the bottom edge of the bamboo mat. Place half of the tuna mixture on the bottom edge of the nori.

Grab the bottom edge of the mat, and begin to roll the sushi while ensuring that the filling stays inside with your fingers. Gently lift the mat off the sushi as you continue to roll the sushi into a tight cylinder. Keep a gentle pressure on the mat so the sushi forms a nice, tight roll.

With the plastic wrap still on, cut the sushi into 6 pieces – beginning in the middle. Serve on a sushi plate and dollop with spicy mayonnaise and a green onion ring or two. 

Chef Evans looks forward to meeting you in The Culinary Center soon!

April 13, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of Clouds

Dr. Ken BeattieWith 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.” Even in his retirement, Ken continues to apply his vast and diverse experiences within initiatives of food security, education, urban habitat development and practical environmental projects as Canada’s Manager of Horticulture Education with the exceptionally distinguished Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Ken has been lecturing aboard cruise ships for more than twenty years and recently was on board Regatta as she explored the Amazon and South America. Ken shares his fascinating insights and experiences below.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe Amazon Basin, or Amazonas, is often referred to as “the lungs of the planet.” I prefer “the birthplace of the clouds.” Huge pillars of candy floss-like vapor rise continuously over the murky waters of the Amazon. Early morning light paints the outer edges of long, island- like shaped clouds as if they were just dipped in gold. As the constant, almost oppressive, sun heightens in the sky, shapes, densities and colors change yet again. Clearly this must be the birthplace of all clouds. This evening, as I enjoy the endless ballet of color and the relentless sun decides to set, another show takes main stage. Soft, evening light drools over the edges of huge banks of clouds, highlighting in sharp contrast the horizon, the sea, and of course, the main body of clouds.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThis orchestration of color and texture takes place daily as we sail the mighty Amazon River aboard Regatta. It is the end of the rainy or wettest season; therefore, the river can be navigated by this smaller ship. The Amazon Basin is as large as the continental U.S., boasting more than 4,000 miles of navigable waters and thousands of tributaries. The Tapajos River is the fourth largest in the world and is only one of such tributaries. Spending several days “at sea,” as it were, on these massive rivers, is delightful. The water color changes from clear to café au lait and abounds with interesting creatures.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe shoreline, often just a faint line in the distance, is predominantly submerged trees with only the very tops of these massive specimens peeking out until the dry season. Flooded homes and a battalion of boats of many shapes and descriptions dot this curious landscape. Tramping through the thick rainforest delighting at the huge selection of plants and insects may seem a tad too adventuresome for some with all the scary things that lurk in these parts. However, remember that once aboard Regatta, you are pampered like royalty and will get to sleep in your stateroom, not a tent in the jungle — not exactly the intrepid explorer!

The entire voyage was 21 days, starting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and ending in Miami, Florida. Evidence of the upcoming World Cup was evident in construction and a general fervor of anticipation in Rio, Salvador, Fortaleza and the inland city of Manaus. Contrasts were everywhere, from architecture representing both old and new world, to subsistence agriculture, to full scale devastation of the rainforest to grow soya beans.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe plants of the many regions on this expedition were the absolute highlight for me. Enormous trees festooned with entire ecosystems on their branches, insect homes and buttressed roots the size of a compact car. Curious sounds in the forest kept everyone alert and watchful, but as it turns out, the wildlife are very cunning and excellent at camouflage — with the exception of the ants. The largest biomass in this rainforest is ants, and it is not that hard to believe when you see them. One species is used by local indigenous peoples as insect repellant. The smallest ants ever basically “rain” out of a disturbed nest to be squashed and applied to the skin. Thankfully, these ants don’t bite like so many of their cousins.

6Brazil nut trees reign as the tallest trees, holding their lofty canopy well above 30 meters. These trees are protected by law, so are often seen standing in the middle of a newly created field which is sown to the pervasive soya bean. As regal and statuesque as they are, they appear to be sad to be the only species left after modern day agricultural devastation.

The rubber trees, which played a huge role in Brazil’s economic development, are still evident, easily recognizable from the wounds inflicted from endless tapping for their precious latex. Noble and sturdy, these “workhorses of the forest” play a crucial role in the ecosystem, particularly as a food source for certain fish. As the seed pods mature and fall into the river they make a sound that attracts a huge fish. This fish has teeth that resemble the molars of a sheep and massive jaw muscles. Once the buoyant seed pod is in the water, the fish snaps its jaws around the pod, cracking it open and creating an almost gunshot sound.

As we sail out of this enormous river towards the Caribbean, even more sunsets and luscious forests await — many rich in myth, folklore and swashbuckling.

Ken will be on board with us again this fall, and invites you to join him aboard Nautica’s Footsteps of Discovery voyage, departing October 4, 2015 and Marvels of Time voyage, departing October 25, 2015.

April 10, 2015

Guest Post: Unforgettable Horseback Journey to Salto del Limón

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 8, 2015

Q & A with our Alaska Voyages Captain: Maksym Melnikov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7What are your favorite places to visit in Alaska?

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

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

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

Captain Melnikov looks forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

April 6, 2015

Red Ginger Recipe: Chicken in Red Curry Sauce

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

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

SERVES 2 TO 3

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

3 to 4 tablespoons red curry paste

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

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 serrano or other medium-heat pepper, julienned

4 lime leaves

1 to 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

5 basil leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 2, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 24, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Songs of the Sea

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

Anchors aweigh, anchors aweigh,

Away, away,

We’ll sail the ocean blue.

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

We’ll sail Endeavour southwards and sniff the tropic air

We’ll sail her to Tahiti and coral islands fair

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

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

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

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

Songsea2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 I’ll go no more a-roving.

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

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

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

March 20, 2015

Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia

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

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

Angkor Wat ExperienceAngkor Wat Experience (available from Bangkok):                              

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

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

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

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


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

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

March 11, 2015

Discover the History and Grandeur of Scandinavia & Russia

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

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

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

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