November 12, 2014

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

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

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

Celebrating Jacques in 2015   Celebrating Jacques in 2015

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

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

Celebrating Jacques in 2015    Celebrating Jacques in 2015

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

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

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

November 10, 2014

Sneak Preview: Celebrity Guest Chefs in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2014

Behind the Scenes in Baristas: A Brief History of Espresso

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

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

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

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

Baristas Baristas Barista's Onboard Insignia

November 5, 2014

Poll Results Just In: Your Favorite Cruise Regions

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

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

Caribbean Caribbean

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

Emed3  Emed4

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

Wmed2  Wmed1

November 3, 2014

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

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

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

What is your favorite region to visit?

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

Italy Kotor Croatia

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

Peru Fjords Patagonia

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

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

Alaska Norway Greece


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

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

When is your next cruise, and to where?

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

October 31, 2014

6 Haunted Harbors Around the World

From deserted cemeteries and abandoned hospitals to the towers and castles of yesteryear, we’re taking a look at the lore behind haunted harbors around the globe, including two particularly spooky Alaskan legends. In honor of Halloween, enjoy these chilling stories – and plan a visit, if you dare!

Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery

Buenos Aires, Argentina: In Recoleta Cemetery, legend has it that a young woman who was mistakenly buried alive wanders among the cemetery grounds to this day, uncovering newly buried bodies to make sure they’re dead. The “Torre del Fantasma,” another famously haunted location, was once home to a tortured artist who eventually plunged to her death from the tower – her ghost is reportedly still seen in the leaded glass window. Passengers of the Line A subway, one of the oldest underground trains in Latin America, also say the tunnels and platforms are haunted by spirits from over a century of accidents and mishaps.

Dublin, Ireland: Ireland’s capital is teeming with haunted locales, some of which are top attractions even for those not interested in ghosts. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is rumored to be the home of a ghost dog, belonging to a sailor buried inside, and Dublin Castle is haunted by the ghosts of headless bodies said to be buried beneath it. Even Trinity College is graced by the ghostly wanderings of a former medical professor.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, Scotland: With a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities in Europe, Edinburgh is home to one of the more famous spots for hauntings and spooky occurrences: Edinburgh Castle. It features an eerie underground labyrinth of tunnels which were used to quarantine and bury plague victims, and even more chilling are the cavernous dungeons once used for imprisonment and torture. Visitors often report ghost sightings, unexplained sounds, abrupt temperature changes and other odd events in these locations.

Singapore, Singapore: Former hospitals often provide the setting for ghostly encounters, and the Old Changi Hospital in Singapore is exactly that. The former military hospital closed in 1997, but stories of ghost sightings at the complex date back to the 1940s around when it was built. Legend has it that the mortuary and a supposed torture room are among the most haunted. Throughout Asia, it’s widely considered one of the most haunted places on the continent.

Sitka, Alaska
Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska: After Russia officially transferred Alaska to the United States on October 18, 1867, rumors spread that the ghost of a beautiful Russian Princess haunted the abandoned Baranof Castle in Sitka. According to the legend, the so-called “Lady in Black” was the daughter of a Russian-American governor who had been forced to marry a man she did not love, so she killed herself on her wedding night. Her sad spirit – draped in diamonds and donning a black trailing robe of mourning – supposedly wanders the remains of the deserted castle during the midnight hour.

Skagway, Alaska: Local legend says that a man known as “Klondike Ike” checked into the Golden North Hotel in Skagway with his fiancée, Mary. The following day, Ike set out in search of gold, but never returned. Despairing, Mary locked herself in her room on the 3rd floor, and eventually died. Though the hotel bar and restaurant on the ground floor are the only areas now open to the public, patrons used to report sightings of “Scary Mary” in the hotel corridors. Rumor has it that she appears as a shadowy apparition, peering out of windows and endlessly seeking her long-lost Ike.

Happy Halloween from all of us at Oceania Cruises!

October 30, 2014

CHEF KELLY'S PERFECT PAELLA RECIPE

In yesterday’s blog I promised to share this paella recipe, which I’ve been perfecting for over 20 years. I hope you’ll take a class with us in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board Marina or Riviera to perfect your own technique, and enjoy a Culinary Discovery Tour in Valencia to savor authentic paella in the city in which it was invented!

CHEF KELLY'S PERFECT PAELLA

{ Serves 2 }

  • Photo 4-54 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional as needed
  • 8 ounces chorizo, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 3 piquillo peppers, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 4 saffron threads, soaked in 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, skin on, halved widthwise
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 lobster tail, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) Bomba, Calasparra, or Arborio rice
  • 4 scallops
  • 8 shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 6 mussels
  • 3/4 cup fish stock or clam juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 green beans, blanched and cut in 2-inch pieces

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch paella pan over medium heat. Be sure to coat the entire pan with oil. Add the chorizo and sauté until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. To ensure the chorizo stays tender, be sure not to overcook. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion to the paella pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, just until the aromas are released. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Transfer the entire mixture to a bowl and add the piquillo peppers to complete the sofrito. Add the smoked paprika to the saffron water, pour the water over the sofrito, and stir to incorporate.

Increase the heat on the paella pan to medium-high. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Transfer the bell pepper to the sofrito bowl.

Photo 3-6Add the chicken breast and thighs to the paella pan, skin side down, adding more olive oil if needed. Sauté the chicken for about 10 minutes, or until half-cooked. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the lobster tail to the paella pan and sear for about 3 minutes, just to coat the lobster with flavor. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.

To assemble the paella, return the sofrito to the paella pan. Nestle the chorizo, chicken, and lobster into the sofrito. Add the rice and then arrange the scallops, shrimp, and mussels on top of the rice.

Add only enough stock to barely cover the rice. Add the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a medium boil and continue boiling for 1 minute.

Decrease the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes. Do not stir. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, remove the lid and discard the bay leaves. Discard any mussels that have not opened. Toss the green beans on top of the paella.

Increase the heat to high and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes so that the rice caramelizes on the bottom of the pan and forms the socarrat. Watch carefully to ensure it does not burn, but do not stir. Stirring will prevent the treasured socarrat from forming.

Your paella is ready to serve and enjoy!

October 29, 2014

PERFECT PAELLA: Chef Kelly Leads Culinary Discovery Tour in Valencia

Valencia is known as the birthplace of paella, the fabulous dish cooked over an open fire with short grain rice and an assortment of seafood and meats. On our Culinary Discovery Tour during Marina’s recent call in Valencia, guests learned the secrets to preparing authentic paella and sampled this famous dish in the city in which it originated.

Photo 2Before heading to the market to shop for paella ingredients, we stopped at the City of Arts and Sciences, designed by world-renowned Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. Among the stunning collection of modern structures are the striking Hemisfèric, which houses an IMAX theater; the Science Museum, resembling a whale skeleton; and Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium. During our stop, we enjoyed a refreshing horchata, a local drink made with a tuber called “chufa” that has been farmed in Valencia for over 1,000 years.

We continued on to another architectural masterpiece, the Mercat Central, which was designed by Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial and houses one of the largest and oldest markets in Europe. With over 1,000 stalls, Valencia’s Mercat Central is a feast for the senses, overflowing with seasonal produce, artisanal pork, fresh seafood and tapas bars. It is a lively place where the locals shop daily and politely mix with the tourists drawn to the beauty of the building as much as the magnificence of the market.

Photo 4-2 Photo 5

Photo 1-1

After a brief orientation to the market, our guests split into groups and set off to find a ripe tomato, onion, garlic and red pepper for our afternoon cooking class. Everyone enjoyed shopping the stalls brimming with fantastic produce and selecting the finest ingredients available. Meanwhile, I went to purchase local Bomba rice and pimento, as well as some jamón for tasting later. As the fall season is upon us, squash were beginning to appear, so I sampled the Calabaza squash that was roasted and served in wedges to eat while strolling through the market. It was so delicious that I purchased one to roast for the group when we returned to the ship!

Photo 2-1 Photo 2-4

Photo 1-2

Photo 1-3We then regrouped for the short drive to La Pepica, a local restaurant renowned for paella. La Pepica has a kitchen that would make any chef’s heart skip a beat, and the setting for our lunch was no less stunning – a seaside promenade where we could enjoy the ocean breeze and the company of new friends. We could hear the waves crashing not 50 feet away, musicians strolling along the boardwalk, and the quiet chatter of Spanish exchanged between the locals. (Not many tourists have the chance to discover this wonderful place.)

Photo 5-3

Our luncheon began with local wines and traditional pan con tomate, a remarkably simple yet delicious dish of grilled bread with fresh tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil (Spanish, of course). This was followed by a refreshing green salad, fried baby squid, and pickled fish and red peppers in olive oil. 

Then the masterpiece was unveiled – Valencian paella served in a paella pan the size of a flying saucer! After a round of applause and many oohs and ahs, we savored a heaping plate of delectable paella made with rabbit, flavorful rice and the requisite green beans that typically distinguish Valencian paella. The finale was a passion fruit mousse, after which we enjoyed a stroll along the lovely beach as the perfect digestive.

Photo 3-3 Photo 4-3

After returning to the ship for a short respite, we gathered in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center for a class in the art of paella. So as not to leave our readers out of the fun, I’ll share the recipe on tomorrow’s blog!

October 27, 2014

Matryoshka: The Legends, Lore & Legacy of Russian Nesting Dolls

M1A cultural icon, a vibrant folk art tradition and one of the most classic Russian gifts, the colorfully painted Matryoshka has fascinated people for ages. Many are familiar with the iconic image, but few know the true story of how the dolls originated. Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Russia, the traditional Matryoshka features a pear-shaped woman dressed in traditional Russian clothing with a head scarf and an apron that often depicts a Russian fable, flowers, a city or landscape. The doll can be separated into two pieces to reveal another doll, which is also hollow and nests another inside and so on. The number of dolls usually ranges from 3 to twelve, and the smaller dolls represent future generations, symbolizing hope and the value of the family.

The Unlikely Origins
M2Though firmly rooted in Russian culture, nesting dolls appeared in China and Japan long before Russia, depicting mythological and religious figures like the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology. These are usually linked to the even earlier Chinese nesting boxes dating all the way back to 1000 AD. How did the dolls make their way to Russia? According to some, these first dolls were carved and painted by a Russian monk on Honshu. Either way, a wealthy Russian patron of arts, Savva Mamontov, discovered a set of nesting dolls in the 1890s and had a desire to revive Russian folk art. Working with one of his artists, Sergei Maliutin, and a craftsman, Vassily Zviozdochkin, they created the very first Russian set of Matryoshkas. These dolls portrayed a colorful life, depicting Russian girls in sarafans (peasant dresses) with baskets, scythes, bouquets of flowers, or dressed in short winter fur coats and scarves. Eventually the dolls were made at the Children's Education Workshop in the Abramtsevo estate near Moscow, founded by Mamontov in order to continue to produce and preserve peasant folk art.

How Did the Name Originate?
M3Throughout provincial Russia before the revolution, the name Matryoshka (also spelled Matriosha or Matryona) was a very popular name for girls. It comes from the Latin mater, which means mother, and likewise was linked with the image of a mother of a big family who was healthy and robust. This evolved into a symbolic name that came represent the wooden nesting dolls. Matryoshka were often given as gifts to young women, and the wooden dolls have come to represent Russian culture and history – they’re about motherhood, fertility and infinity.

The Spread of Matryoshka
M4In 1900, the wooden nesting dolls won a bronze medal at the World Exhibition in Paris. Soon after, the Matryoshka skyrocketed in popularity. Over time, the Matryoshka has evolved, depicting fairy tales, animals, musicians and even Russian czars and modern politicians. A famous Matryoshka couple, "Russian Lad" and "Russian Beauty," was taken to the International Space Station Spaceship by Russian astronauts and given as a gift to its international crew.

The legacy continues to live on today with collectors spanning the globe. You’ll see an abundance of Matryoshkas throughout Russia, especially in the busy markets of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Moscow even features the Museum of Matryoshka, showcasing the history of this favorite and storied Russian souvenir.

 

 

October 24, 2014

The Rise of Sake: Tasting Notes & Food Pairings

SakeAn ancient Japanese saying, “Sake never fights with food,” only begins to hint at its pairing power. Though an age-old Japanese tradition, the fermented rice libation has recently been garnering increasing international recognition for its food pairing potential – and not just with Japanese food. The variety of sake styles actually offer diverse flavor profiles, ranging from light, floral and smooth to fruity and full-bodied. One of the main factors that affects the flavor and mouthfeel of sake is how much the grain of rice is polished. More milling results in a fragrant, lighter sake, and less milling creates a fuller-bodied, bolder sake.

Sake2In general, there are five basic types of sake: Junmai-shu, Honjozo-shu, Ginjo-shu, Daiginjo-shu and Namazake. Here is just a sampling of the different types you might find on our sake menu at Red Ginger.

Ginjo Sake

Dewazakura “Oka” Cherry Bouquet

A favorite among enthusiasts, a lovely aroma and clean taste, floral rather than fruity, a touch of pear and hint of melon.

Food pairing: salads, sashimi, summer rolls, light-flavored food. Served chilled.

ChopsticksJunmai Sake

Akitabare “Koshiki Junzukuri” Northern Skies

Rich, subdued, rounded, mild texture and earthy aroma, a well-crafted traditional sake.

Food pairing: cheese, mushrooms, chicken, fried foods, meat pastry. Served chilled.

Daiginjo Sake

Akitabare “Suirakuten” Heaven of Tipsy Delight

Aged for two years after brewing, luscious, juicy melon andmuscat grape characteristics, nuanced and gentle, fascinating.

Food pairing: cheese, sautéed mushrooms, grilled chicken,grilled seafood, fried foods, meat pastry. Served chilled.

Red-gingerTry beginning your next meal on board Marina or Riviera with a glass of sake to open up your appetite. For those new to sake, Culinary Director Franck Garanger suggests starting out with a Junmai sake, the most traditional style of sake. Cheers, or as they say in Japanese, kanpie!

October 22, 2014

Discover Wondrous Destinations Even During a Day at Sea

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

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2014

Cool Cocktails in the Caribbean

Cool Cocktails in the CaribbeanThere is something about the soft sands, sapphire waters and cool breezes of the Caribbean that goes perfectly with a fruity cocktail. When relaxing on a pristine beach in the warm Caribbean sunshine, even beer and wine drinkers may find themselves thinking, a cocktail with an umbrella in it sounds delightful!

The majority of the world’s rum is produced in the Caribbean, so many cocktails have been designed around this liquor. A product of sugar cane, rum has a sweetness that makes it the perfect complement to fruit juices. Some of the most popular drinks include:

Calypso Cooler: The secret to this cocktail is spiced rum combined with peach schnapps. Add orange juice and a splash of grenadine and serve over ice.

Paradise Quencher: This dark rum drink, typically served frozen, features an array of fruit juices: pineapple, passion fruit, cranberry and apricot.

Bahama Mama: With dark rum, light rum and the particularly potent 151-proof rum, this is the rummiest of rum drinks. There are many variations on this popular cocktail, but it typically includes coffee liqueur, pineapple juice and lemon juice, served on the rocks.

A Day at the Beach: For those who prefer vodka to rum, this sweet and fruity tropical drink makes the perfect alternative. It mixes vodka with peach schnapps and amaretto, plus orange and cranberry juice, and is served on the rocks.

Happily, all of these cocktails are available in the bars and lounges on Oceania Cruises’ ships, so you can also enjoy them on board as you cruise the Caribbean. If these drinks are a bit too sweet for you, then Oceania Cruises’ signature cocktail is the perfect alternative. Made with vodka instead of rum, the Big O Martini is not as sweet but still has the fruity spirit of Caribbean cocktails. The “O” stands for Oceania Cruises of course, but it could also stand for orange.

I confess that the Big O Martini is one of my favorite drinks, whether we’re cruising the Caribbean or the Baltic! Here is the recipe if you’d like to give it a try:

For each Big O Martini, fill a shaker with ice, 2 ½ ounces Grey Goose Orange Vodka, ½ ounce Cointreau, ½ ounce freshly squeezed orange juice, ½ ounce cranberry juice, and a splash (about ¼ ounce) of freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir and then strain into a martini glass, preferably chilled.

October 17, 2014

Limited Time Offer: Extend Your Stay with Exclusive $99 Hotel Special

Imagine that you’ve just enjoyed an unforgettable voyage sailing from New Zealand to French Polynesia, and as you sail towards Tahiti to disembark, you still have the pleasure of lingering another night in this enchanting part of the world. Now you can explore the captivating cities in which your itinerary begins or ends even more with our special limited time $99 hotel offer. Featuring both Beijing and Papeete, this special hotel offer is available on a number of our extraordinary South Pacific and Asia itineraries, highlighted below. 

Beijing: Crowne Plaza Beijing Lido

Crowne Plaza BeijingCrowne Plaza Beijing Lido is ideally located at Chaoyang district in the center of the Lido area, famous for its up-market residents, and renowned restaurants & bars. All of the hotel guestrooms feature oversized bathrooms, a flat-screen TV, satellite channels and high-speed Internet access. The Crowne Plaza Beijing Lido also features an onsite restaurant, Matrix which serves both Asian and western dishes; a bar and lounge to enjoy cocktails and nightly entertainment; an indoor heated pool; a fitness center and free Wi-Fi throughout. In addition, the hotel is only a 20 minutes’ drive from Beijing International Airport.

Crowne Plaza BeijingDuring your stay at Crowne Plaza Beijing Lido, easily explore other parts of the city with the nearby Metro and readily available taxis. Perhaps delve deeper into Beijing with a tour of the Forbidden City, and afterwards rent a rowboat to discover Beihai (North Lake) Park, once part of the emperors’ vast gardens. The next day, you might visit the National Museum of China or head to historical Nanluoguxiang in the Gulou (Drum and BellTower) district to explore its narrow streets filled with intriguing shops, galleries and cafés.

2-night stay for $99 per guest, including transfers and breakfast:

Post-Cruise: Nautica’s Asian Interlude, February 21, 2015

Pre-Cruise: Nautica’s Emperors & Empires, March 10, 2015

Book early; space is limited!

Papeete: Radisson Plaza Resort

Radisson Plaza ResortLinger in Tahiti longer at the tranquil Radisson Plaza Resort, located on the gorgeous half-mile long Lafayette Beach in historic Matavai Bay. The hotel offers upscale luxury, spectacular oceanfront views, unparalleled resort services and lush, tropical surroundings.  All rooms feature balconies with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, along with luxurious and contemporary furnishings. A full range of resort amenities is available, including a waterfront restaurant with nightly entertainment, an infinity swimming pool, an award-winning spa, convenient beach access, a fitness center, complimentary shuttle to Papeete city center and complimentary high-speed Internet access.

Radisson Plaza ResortWith its stunning location on historic Matavai Bay, this destination resort offers easy access to a wide range of activities and attractions, and endless possibilities for relaxation. Use your extra time to tour the ancient restored temple of Arahurahu Marae, visit the Paul Gaugin museum or discover the gorgeous island landscapes on an exciting safari. Or perhaps simply enjoy the Polynesian breeze on the glittering shore just beyond your hotel doors.

1-night stay for $99 per room, including transfers and breakfast:

Post Cruise: Marina’s Pacific Serenade, December 17, 2014

Post-Cruise: Marina’s South Pacific Marvels, February 28, 2015

Pre-Cruise: Marina’s Picturesque Polynesia, January 14, 2015

Pre-Cruise: Marina’s South Pacific Pearls, January 24, 2015

Book early; space is limited!

October 15, 2014

Spa Experience: Guest Shares How to Ease Jet Lag

Canyon Ranch SpaClubI’m so passionate about traveling but with long trips jet lag can be really frustrating. The destination is always worth it, but when you arrive you really just want to press a reset button and feel normal again. When I sail with Oceania Cruises, jet lag solutions are simple. On my last cruise in August from Venice to Rome, I knew I’d have a long flight from LA, so I pre-booked a special treatment at the onboard spa. The Canyon Ranch Spa has several types of treatments that actually help your body recover more quickly from jet lag – I chose the Revitalizing Ritual – it’s designed to reactivate sluggish circulation, boost energy, reduce swelling and encourage muscle relaxation.

Canyon Ranch Spa TerraceThe spa is completely relaxing and the service is incredible. Everyone I encountered was knowledgeable and friendly, and I started unwinding the moment I checked in with the front desk. The Revitalizing Ritual lasted about 80 minutes…and was worth every second. My massage started with smelling beautiful flower oils that helped my mind relax, erasing the frustrations of my long flight. Then I could actually feel the circulation in my legs being restored when my massage therapist applied sea algae and a warming gingergrass scrub. Next, she polished my skin and hydrated it with fragrant rose water. Then she began an energizing and therapeutic shiatsu massage with a special lime silk oil that completely loosened the knots in my neck and shoulders from the flight. By the end of the ritual I felt so relaxed I could feel myself melting into the massage table as she smoothed a plum cream on my skin.

After my Canyon Ranch treatment, I joined everyone on the Sun deck as we sailed away from Venice, feeling amazingly relaxed and energized – and completely ready to enjoy the memorable days ahead.

-Guest sailing on Riviera; August 15, 2014

On your next voyage, book one of these top Canyon Ranch SpaClub® treatments so you can slip into relaxed vacation mode right from day one.

1. Detoxifying Ritual - 80 minutes
Retreat into a ritual of steam and deep detox through a therapeutic transformation in this six-step healing massage ritual. Enjoy a refreshing cleanse of Moroccan mint tea and silt, followed by an invigorating scrub with a blend of coffee, olive stones and fresh lemons. Relax as you are wrapped in rich rhassoul clay to draw deep impurities out of the body. Recharge with quince and orange blossoms, and increase circulation with a Turkish massage using the curative essences of cardamom, jasmine, bergamot, amber and clove. Finally, enjoy a soothing layer of shea butter and figs to protect, heal and restore.

2. Organic Mermaid’s Purse Wrap - 50 minutes
Immediately notice rejuvenated skin with this hydrating and detoxifying treatment for tired, dry or dull skin. By stimulating blood flow, this nourishing wrap encourages the body to renew itself at the cellular level for long-term results.

3. Organic Liquid Seaweed Wrap - 50 minutes
This refreshing and detoxifying wrap features organic muslin soaked in pure seaweed extracts, cold-pressed within one hour of harvesting on the wild Northwest Coast of Ireland. Seaweed offers many nutritive and healing benefits, including detoxification, metabolism boosting and a natural anti-aging boost. This wrap delivers an immediate and noticeable plumping and toning of the skin, making your skin look refreshed and supple.

4. Euphoric Coffee Scrub - 50 minutes
Wake up with this invigorating scrub. Exfoliate, tone and come alive with a vitalizing scrub that blends coffee, black olive, crushed almond, neroli, orange and lemon peel and fresh lemon juice. Enjoy a soothing finish with a light application of cardamom oil.

5. Tension-Zone Massage - 50 minutes
Stiff shoulders and neck from a long flight? Let it all melt away this concentrated de-stresser. A full palette of sophisticated touch techniques reduces tension where it lives – your head, neck, shoulders and back. Sleep soundly and say goodbye to nagging headaches so you can fully embrace your vacation.

Canyon Stone Massage6. Canyon Stone Massage - 80 minutes
During this classic massage, your therapist uses smooth, rounded basalt stones that are gently heated to encourage relaxation. The weight and radiant heat of the stones, combined with a calming essential oil, penetrates muscle tissue and induces deep relaxation without overheating, persuading even the tightest muscles and knots to relax and unwind.

One final tip: if you select a Canyon Ranch massage, be sure to enhance it with a Peppermint Scalp Refresher. This awakening aromatherapy scalp treatment is perfect for banishing jet lag. The refreshing blend of essential oils on your scalp stimulates circulation from head to toe, and is both invigorating and relaxing. Finish off your afternoon at the spa by relaxing on the private Canyon Ranch Spa Terrace or stepping into the steam room to ease stiff joints.

For more details on Canyon Ranch SpaClub treatments, visit OceaniaCruises.com/ships/lifestyle and select the ship of your choice to view specific offerings. To make an appointment, simply call Canyon Ranch at 877-329-1924 up to 60 days prior to sailing. We look forward to welcoming you at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on board your next voyage!

 

October 13, 2014

Off the Beaten Path in the Caribbean: 3 Unique Ports

Fort-de-France, MartiniqueIn the spirit of Columbus Day, we’re turning the spotlight on one of the regions that captivated the famed Italian explorer during the late 15th century, drawing him back again and again. Scattered across the Caribbean, the islands among this aquamarine sea remain enchanting and stunningly diverse. Port of Spain, pulsating with Creole culture and Carnival celebrations, feels worlds away from orderly and mellow Grand Cayman. Even Bonaire and Aruba – neighboring islands – couldn’t be more different, in both their landscapes and offerings.

The Caribbean  warm air and white sandy beaches  is much more than booming resorts and non-descript beaches. With lesser known destinations in the Caribbean, you can escape the crowds and enjoy an authentic taste of the region while fully embracing a tranquil island getaway. Explore these off-the-beaten-path Caribbean ports and discover a whole new side of this alluring region.

 

St. George’s, GrenadaSt. George’s, Grenada
Despite Grenada’s alluring beaches, a charming capital and verdant rainforests, the island remains serene and uncrowded. Often referred to as Spice Isle, Grenada is dotted with aromatic spice plantations that provide an enriching portal into the history of the island. St. George’s enchants you with its old handsome buildings, bustling spice markets, historic forts and lovely Carenage harbor. The island brims with secluded coves and beaches, inviting you to stroll, swim or simply soak up the sun. Further inland, you can explore the breathtaking Grand Etang Lake, a cobalt blue lake inside the crater of an extinct volcano. As one of the lushest Caribbean islands, Grenada is covered with picturesque tropical nature trails. Try Seven Sisters Falls or Annadale Falls, shrouded in misty ferns and abundant vegetation. To venture even further off the beaten track, take a ferry from the capital to neighboring Carriacou or Petit Martinique – the even quieter sister isles are sure to make you feel like you’ve truly escaped.

Insignia’s Traveling the Tropics, November 11, 2014
Insignia’s Caribbean Delights, November 30, 2014
Regatta’s Journey Through the Islands, April 11, 2015

 

Fort-de-France, MartiniqueFort-de-France, Martinique
Martinique enchants with good reason. Set amidst volcanic slopes and luxurious stretches of beach, the island blends Caribbean traditions with Gallic culture while its streets are rich with the best cosmopolitan indulgences of the region. This all makes for a very distinct and tempting Caribbean getaway. But the best part about this little French outpost? It still feels dreamy and unspoiled. Despite its sophisticated vibe, Martinique really still operates on island time. Celebrated by Francophiles, the street life exudes unmistakable style, and you’ll have plenty of choices for delicious French and Creole meals. As you wander the colorful lanes, you’ll also notice the proliferation of fine French offerings. Martinique’s natural beauty competes for your attention too, from its white sand beaches and dense tropical rain forests to the peaks of Mont Pelée. Go on a thrilling 4x4 adventure for a taste of La Palourde rainforest, or take a fascinating kayaking trip around one of Martinique’s beautiful islets filled with mangroves.

Insignia’s Caribbean Rhythms, December 7, 2014
Regatta’s Holidays in the Tropics, December 23, 2014

 

Kralendijk, BonaireKralendijk, Bonaire
One of the most intriguing islands of the Caribbean, Bonaire is one of the few Caribbean islands that still maintain that exciting “undiscovered” feel. The “B” of the ABC islands, Bonaire is refreshingly less developed than its neighbors – you won’t find any of the sprawling resorts common on Aruba and Curacao. Instead, you’ll find a quaint and walkable capital, friendly Dutch locals, sublime landscapes with windswept divi divi trees and breathtakingly pristine coral reefs. In fact, Bonaire’s biggest claim to fame is its world-class diving and snorkeling – its entire coastline is protected by the Bonaire National Marine Park – offering stunning coral reef just feet from the shore. Numerous dive sites flourish with vibrant staghorn and soft corals, anemones, sea sponges, parrotfish, angelfish, seahorses and more. For a taste of Bonaire’s wildlife, hike Washington-Slagbaai National Park – it’s brimming with cacti, iguanas and parrots and captivates with its gorgeous panoramas of the island. Go even farther off the beaten path with a day trip to the deserted paradise of Klein Bonaire, a tiny uninhabited island off the west coast. 

Riviera’s Sunny Getaways, November 29, 2014
Insignia’s Islands of Sunshine, January 10, 2015

October 8, 2014

Exotic South Pacific: Rare Flora & Fauna

Island ExplorationTiny dots in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific islands protect some of the most isolated habitats in the world. The island groups are also home to a number of endemic species, typically occurring in lesser numbers as you travel east since most species occurring in the region originated in Southeast Asia. Since these island groups encompass everything from low-lying coral atolls like Rangiroa to high volcanic islands like Fiji, the environments support a wide range of ecosystems – and make for exciting island explorations, both at sea and ashore.



Exotic Avian SpeciesFiji
With a colorful range of exotic avian species, Fiji is a birdwatcher’s paradise. About 27 endemic land and sea bird species inhabit Fiji, including the red-throated lorikeet, a critically endangered parrot, along with the Fiji goshawk, a raptor. Many of Fiji's iconic birds, such as the Kadavu parrot, Fiji petrel and pink-billed parrot finch are also threatened species. A sailing trip or a nature walk offers plenty of opportunities to witness the island’s unique population of birds. Also keep an eye out for the archipelago’s two native iguanas: the Fiji banded iguana and Fiji crested iguana.



Coral ReefWith one of the largest coral reef systems in the South Pacific, Fiji’s surrounding waters support a rich variety of sea creatures. The island offers the opportunity to witness everything from blue whales and bottlenose dolphins to humphead parrot fish and the endangered humphead wrasse, identified by its thick lips and prominent hump on the forehead. Fiji also serves as a refuge for several endangered turtles: the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, leatherback turtke and loggerhead turtle, which nest in Fiji from November through March. Snorkeling or cruising in a glass-bottom boat makes a great way to discover Fiji’s rare and colorful marine life.

Explore Fiji’s unique flora & fauna on one of these memorable voyages:

Marina’s South Pacific Pearls, January 24, 2015
Marina’s South Pacific Marvels, February, 28, 2015
Marina’s Paradise in the Pacific, January 25, 2016



Flowering PlantsThe Samoan Islands
Though lesser known than its iconic neighbors like Tahiti and Bora, both American Samoa and Samoa offer seascapes and mountains rivaling the best in the South Pacific. The islands offer ideal snorkeling with the surrounding sea hosting over 250 species of coral, including the unique boulder coral, which can grow to be over 15 feet high. The island group is also home to two native species of giant clams, growing to 12 – 15 inches in shell length. Endangered humpback whales are regularly spotted off the coast of the Samoa Islands during their migration to and from rich feeding areas around Antarctica.

This abundant diversity is found ashore too. The archipelago supports five distinct rainforest communities (lowland, montane, coast, ridge and cloud) which are home to over 500 kinds of flowering plants, 65 of which are colorful orchids. An unusual plant form, liana, a type of woody vine which attaches to trees and clings by tendrils, is quite common throughout the tropical rainforests of Samoa. You might also catch a glimpse of the endangered flying fox – a unique fruit bat with the wing span of a barn owl. Though tropical forests and mangroves on these islands are seriously threatened due to rapid population growth, conservation efforts are on the rise – about 15% of the 3 main islands are protected under the National Park of American Samoa.

Get a taste of the Samoan Islands’ rich biodiversity on one of these special voyages:

Marina’s Passage Down Under, January 24, 2015
Marina’s Pacific Splendors, February 12, 2015
Marina’s South Pacific Serenity, February 4, 2016

October 6, 2014

The Grandeur of the Great Wall of China

Dr. Freedman with his daughter, Jessica, at the Great Wall
Dr. Freedman with his daughter, Jessica, at the Great Wall

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

For me there is simply no other experience on the planet like walking on the Great Wall of China. It is astounding on so many levels.

Its history and its great antiquity grip the imagination:  from its origins in the 7th century BC, to its famous consolidation by China’s very first Emperor in 221 BC, to its remarkable enhancement into its current state of architectural grandeur by the great Ming emperors of the 14th and 15th centuries. The sheer scope boggles the mind. Can it really extend over 5,500 miles east to west across the vast expanse of northern China? Indeed it does. It stands without peer as both the largest and longest building project in human history. As a technological feat, it inspires awe. Looking around from any vantage point, it is an engineering marvel that seems to border on the impossible, carving a massive serpentine path along the crests of steep and craggy mountains. The natural beauty of its setting is breathtaking. The wall offers undulating mountain vistas, and its thousands of towers are never-ending, changing magnificently with the seasons.

Badaling, a section of the Great Wall about 50 miles northwest of Beijing
Badaling, a section of the Great Wall about 50 miles northwest of Beijing

From a functional standpoint, the wall is intriguing — and full of irony. Its principal function was always to serve as a defensive military barrier to protect the realm against invasion from the north by barbarian tribes. Secondarily, it served as an east-west transportation corridor for merchants and messengers, through otherwise impenetrable terrain. It also served important social functions, controlling migration and dividing civilized society from the hinterlands. Yet despite its grand extent and great utility, the wall ultimately failed in its principal military function: China twice succumbed to foreign invasion by northern intruders, first by the Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan in 1279 and then by fierce Manchu armies in 1644. The Mongols stayed as overlords in China for 97 years, and the Manchus stayed as rulers for well over two centuries.

Mutianyu, a section of the Great Wall about 40 miles northeast of Beijing
Mutianyu, a section of the Great Wall about 40 miles northeast of Beijing

Today, the changcheng (“long wall”, as the Chinese very aptly refer to it) is China’s premier tourist attraction and undeniably qualifies as one of the world’s greatest wonders. Whatever part of the wall you visit, you will be impressed. The Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the wall are nearest to Beijing, while the Huangyaguan Pass section is nearest to the port of Tianjin. All are striking and awe-inspiring as they carve their sure and mighty path over miles of rugged mountain terrain, enduring as a powerful symbol of the country.

 

 

 

This winter, discover the Great Wall of China first-hand and join Dr. Freedman’s compelling lectures:

Nautica’s Asian Interlude voyage, February 21, 2015
Nautica’s Emperors & Empires voyage, March 10, 2015

Dr. Freedman will also be sharing insightful knowledge on a range of fascinating Asian & African destinations as he joins us on the following voyages:

Nautica’s Pagodas & Palaces voyage, February 5, 2015  
Nautica’s Mythical Asia voyage, March 26, 2015
Insignia’s Pagodas & Palaces voyage, October 10, 2015
Insignia’s Sultans & Safaris voyage, October 26, 2015

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!
 

October 4, 2014

CHEF KELLY'S FAVORITE TAPAS: CHICKPEAS WITH SPINACH, GARLIC & IBERIAN HAM

Yesterday on the blog I shared our culinary adventure in Cádiz and the delicious tapas we enjoyed at El Faro. Today I wanted to share with you what is, without a doubt, my most favorite tapas recipe. I adapted it from a dish I had at Taller de Tapas in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, and we teach it in our Viva España class in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board.

The ingredients are simple, but the secret is the use of very high quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh baby spinach. I usually do not advocate cooking with extra virgin olive oil, but here it is critical to the flavor of the dish. Because you never get this dish smoking hot, the flavor of the oil is maintained. The lemon is also critical, as it brings out the flavors of the dish, particularly the chickpeas. There is no substitute for real jamón Ibérico, but prosciutto will do in a pinch.

CHICKPEAS WITH SPINACH, GARLIC & IBERIAN HAM

{ SERVES 4 }

  • Chickpea Recipe-23 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Iberian ham
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1½ cups cooked fresh chickpeas
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lemon wedges

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the oil, garlic, and ham and heat gently until the garlic softens. Be careful not to burn the garlic or you will have to start over.

When the oil is nicely infused, increase the heat to medium. Add the chickpeas and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until warmed through. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the spinach wilts but still has some body. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with lemon wedges and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. 

I hope you enjoy the recipe! What are your favorite Spanish tapas?

October 3, 2014

CHEF KELLY LAUNCHES 2014 SPANISH CULINARY DISCOVERY TOURS IN CÁDIZ

Cadiz statueAfter a glorious summer in the Baltic, Marina traveled along the Brittany coast and around Portugal to call on several ports in Spain. Today I want to share with you the delightful Andalusian city of Cádiz and our Culinary Discovery Tour focusing on tapas, olives, fish and sherry! 

One of the most influential ports of its time, Cádiz became the center of the culinary universe when Christopher Columbus returned with treasures from the New World. (Imagine Mediterranean cuisine before tomatoes, peppers and potatoes!) Because of its position on global trade routes, Cádiz was where the New World ingredients met the spices of the Far East and the 800-year influences of the Moors and Arabs in the sophisticated cuisine of North Africa and the Levant.

Hanging peppers-2We began our tour of Cádiz with a short stroll along the cobblestone streets, picturesque squares and narrow passageways to the Mercado Central, where I shopped with Chef Jacques Pépin during his last visit. The market was overflowing with freshly caught fish and seafood, from exotic species of shrimp to the pearly white strips of squid, tiras de chocos. Local fish roe, such as huevas frescas de merluza, was a delicacy in abundance this season. Shrimp
The market also offered copious fresh produce, olives, jamón and cheeses, so we selected some for our class later in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board. We also picked up two bottles of local Fino and Pedro Ximénez sherries to taste.

 

Another specialty of Cádiz is olive oil. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, with Andalusia contributing over 50 percent of that yield, thanks to the ideal growing conditions and the passionate dedication to the craft of producing, harvesting and pressing olives. We chose two olive oils for tasting in class: picual and arbequina. Produced locally, the picual varietal creates an extra virgin olive oil with the slight fragrance of dried fruits. The more bitter arbequina is grown farther north and typically used in aioli or salad dressings.

After exploring the market, we walked through the Old Town to El Faro. A Cádiz institution, the restaurant has hundreds of photos of celebrities and politicians crowding the walls, not unlike Sardi’s in New York City. After being seated in the elegant yet friendly surroundings, we were treated to a fabulous tapas luncheon.

El Faro couple Jamon and bar Shrimp omelet

SherryBecause of the abundance of fresh ingredients available to chefs in Cádiz, the cuisine is simple, allowing the ingredients to shine. We enjoyed Iberian pork, shrimp mini-omelets, chickpeas with tripe and cod, and several other delicious tapas. Fresh seafood, exquisite meats, seasonal vegetables, exotic fruits and aromatic olive oils were perfectly complemented by world-famous wines and sherries from this sunny piece of heaven in southern Spain.

After a fond farewell to our hosts, we returned to Marina for a short respite before reconvening in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. We enjoyed a class on fish cookery and sampled the treasures we found at the market – the perfect ending to the perfect day!

September 30, 2014

The African Safari: Adventures of a Lifetime

Get a glimpse of lions in their majestic natural habit on a safari
Get a glimpse of lions in their majestic natural habitat on a safari

The African safari has long epitomized the kind of quintessential and exotic adventure many travelers only dream of — remarkable untamed wilderness, majestic landscapes and some of the most unforgettable wildlife encounters. A safari heightens the senses and enlivens the spirit, providing the extraordinary opportunity to witness the iconic Big Five (the lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo) along with other stunning animals such as giraffes, cheetahs, hippos and zebras in their pristine, natural environments. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler to Africa, or this is a dream you’ve long been waiting to realize, we invite you to immerse yourself in an authentic safari experience on one of Oceania Cruises’ thrilling tours. Highlighted below are just a few of our professionally-guided safari tours, available on a range of voyages aside from those listed.

 

Kapama Private Game Reserve
Covering approximately 30,000 acres of prime big game territory, Kapama Private Game Reserve combines exotic wilderness with the comforts of five-star hospitality. The Drakensberg mountain range provides a majestic backdrop for the largest private game lodge in the Greater Kruger National Park region. Nestled along the riverbed, Kapama River Lodge offers luxurious safari accommodations, while the natural environment and lush ecosystem create the perfect opportunity for a close encounter with some or all of the Big Five African animals, or any number of other unique animal species that roam the reserve.

Available as a pre-cruise tour on Nautica’s South African Holiday voyage, December 22, 2014
Available as a pre-cruise tour on Nautica’s Indian Ocean Odyssey voyage, January 6, 2015

 

Encounter herds of zebras during a game drive
Encounter herds of zebras during a game drive

Chobe and Victoria Falls
The Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana sits above the Chobe River, offering panoramic views across miles of islands and flood plains. Chobe National Park is famous for its abundant elephant herds and is home to many other animal species as well. Relax on your private veranda after a day on a safari, or enjoy a Chobe River sundowner cruise for spectacular sunset views. Then, enjoy the fabulous vista of Victoria Falls – in sheer scope, the largest waterfall in the world. Known to locals as the “smoke that thunders,” its roar deafens as the Zambezi River plunges into the chasm below.

 

 

Available as a post-cruise tour on Nautica’s Mystical Odyssey voyage, November 22, 2014
Available as a pre-cruise tour on Marina’s Southern Seas voyage, November 28, 2015

 

Legends of Kruger
Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African savannas, Kruger National Park offers the ultimate safari experience. Morning and afternoon game drives provide multiple opportunities to view the tremendous variety of wildlife that roams this vast reserve. You will likely see not only the Big Five, but also Africa’s unusual flora such as baobabs and fever trees, as well as an astounding array of exotic birds. During the evenings, enjoy the stunning views from the open decks of your luxurious lodge overlooking the Lwakahle River.

Available as an overland tour on Nautica’s Marvels of Time voyage, October 25, 2015
Available as an overland tour on Insignia’s Sultans & Safaris voyage, October 26, 2015

 

Witness the iconic Big Five on a memorable safari
Witness the iconic Big Five on a memorable safari

Winelands & Wildlife
Explore the bustling harbor city of Cape Town before taking a journey to the famous Cape Winelands, set below the dramatic mountain range Hottentots Holland. Tour the Winelands, home of some of the world’s finest wines and Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa. During your visit to an estate, have lunch and enjoy a wine tasting. The following day features an extraordinary wildlife experience on a hosted game drive through one of Africa’s pristine wildlife reserves, where you will see some of Africa’s most iconic animals, including the Big Five in their natural habitat.

 

Available as a post-cruise tour on Insignia’s Atlantic Ocean Odyssey voyage, January 20, 2015
Available as a pre-cruise tour on Insignia’s Indian Ocean Exploration voyage, February 15, 2015

 

For further details on our safari tours or additional voyages offering these safari tours, please call us at 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642) or contact your Travel Agent.

 

 

September 29, 2014

New Exclusive Guests & Events Featured on The Italian Americans Signature Sailing

In partnership with Artful Travelers, we are proud to announce several exciting additions to this

Acclaimed epicurean and author Lou DiPalo
Acclaimed epicurean and author Lou DiPalo

fall’s celebration of The Italian Americans aboard stunning Riviera. Departing Oct. 29, 2014, the Enchanting Riviera voyage sails from Athens to Monte Carlo along the gorgeous Italian Riviera, and now features new exclusive guests and events.

Acclaimed epicurean and author Lou DiPalo will join the voyage for special events on board, as well as specially-curated shore excursions in some of Italy’s most celebrated ports, showcasing the very best of both cuisine and culture.

In addition, award-winning mezzosoprano Sarah M’Punga (Rigoletto, Carmen, Aida) will offer the crowning glory on this extraordinary journey with a finale performance in the beautiful Riviera Lounge, serenading passengers with world-renowned operatic favorites.

Award-winning mezzosoprano Sarah M’Punga
Award-winning mezzosoprano Sarah M’Punga

As previously announced, this special voyage will debut the upcoming PBS documentary series The Italian Americans. Narrated by Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci, the highly anticipated series celebrates generations of Italian Americans from the mid-19th century to present day. The program will be screened in its entirety aboard Riviera months before its official debut on PBS stations across the country in February 2015.

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

September 26, 2014

8 Tips: Travel Smart with Your Smartphone

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

Before you leave:

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

 During your trip:

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

FREE INTERNET: New for Winter 2015-2016

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

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

September 24, 2014

Panama Canal Celebrates 100th Anniversary

PcIn 1914, the iconic waterway that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across the Isthmus of Panama opened to ships and revolutionized international trade forever. The 48-mile-long passageway created a landmark shortcut for ships and vessels, saving nearly 8,000 miles—which is what’s required when traveling around the tip of South America. During the past 100 years in operation, the Panama Canal has continually boosted trade between continents, serving as the passageway for between 13,000 and 14,000 ships every year—about 40 each day.

In honor of the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary, here are some fascinating facts about this iconic engineering feat. 

  1. Nicaragua was actually the original target site for the canal. During the 1800s, the U.S. considered Nicaragua a more feasible location than Panama. A French engineer shifted the focus to Panama, drawing attention to a number of volcanoes in Nicaragua.
  2. More than 60 million pounds of dynamite were used to excavate the site of the canal.
  3. In 1963, the Panama Canal transit began operating 24 hours a day, thanks to the introduction of fluorescent lighting.
  4. Every vessel that makes the transit must pay a toll based on its size and cargo. Tolls for the largest vessels can be as much as $450,000. The smallest toll ever paid was 36 cents, paid in 1928 by Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal.
  5. In 2010, the 1 millionth vessel crossed the canal since its opening in 1914.
  6. When passing through the canal, ship captains do not transit the canal on their own. Instead, a specially-trained canal pilot commands the navigational control of each ship. The transit takes ships between 6 to 8 hours.
  7. To this day, the gates that control the transit are the original gates installed 100 years ago. The most significant change made since construction in 1914 has been replacing the mechanical gears of the locks with hydraulics.
  8. Though the canal’s engineers had enough forethought to build the passageway significantly larger than what was necessary for ships at the time of construction, today’s megaships have finally spurred an expansion. The expansion project began in 2007, and is set to finish in late 2015.


Celebrate the magnificence and history of the Panama Canal with one of Oceania Cruises’ memorable voyages that make this time-honored transit:

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

September 9, 2014

OCEANIA CRUISES UNVEILS NEW 2015-2016 WINTER COLLECTION

Today Oceania Cruises is thrilled to unveil our new collection of itineraries for the 2015-2016 winter season. Of these 42 destination-rich sailings, 27 are unique new itineraries never before offered, featuring 12 exciting new ports of call:

Reservations open on September 17, at 8:30 am EST, so now is the perfect time to begin planning your dream voyage to whichever corner of the globe intrigues you most. Here are the regions where each ship will sail and highlights of some of the fascinating new itineraries.

TierraFuego_Ushuaia_shutterstock_1371166
Tierra del Fuego, South America

REGATTA: The Americas

In addition to Caribbean sailings and four voyages traversing the Panama Canal, Regatta explores South America at length, including two new Amazon River cruises and the new Alluring Andes & Majestic Fjords itinerary, departing Lima on February 7, 2016, and sailing around the southernmost tip of the continent. Marvel at Machu Picchu perched high in the Andes, cruise the magnificent Chilean Fjords and Tierra del Fuego, and explore vibrant cities from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires.

INSIGNIA: Around the World

For the most adventurous explorers seeking the journey of a lifetime, Around the World in 180 Days sails roundtrip from Miami and circumnavigates the globe. If your time is more limited, shorter segments of this journey also traverse oceans and continents. Departing from Barbados on January 14, 2016, Atlantic Ocean Exploration calls on Caribbean and South American destinations such as Belém, the gateway to the Amazon, before crossing the Atlantic to Africa. Explore the new port of Luderitz, Namibia, the vast sand dunes of Walvis Bay, and the exotic island of São Tomé.

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Walvis Bay, Namibia


NAUTICA: Africa & Asia

Nautica calls South Africa and Asia home for a series of eight unique itineraries, six of which are new routes. The new Dynasties & Empires, departing March 4, 2016, sails from Beijing to Hong Kong and features six overnight stays to allow ample time to explore fascinating cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo. Beautiful new ports on this voyage include Shimizu, Japan, nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji, and Jeju, South Korea, known as the “Island of the Gods” for its beautiful beaches and dramatic landscapes.

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Bora Bora, French Polynesia

 

MARINA: South Pacific

Opening the season with two South American voyages, Marina then sails for the South Pacific to explore lush Polynesian islands and the treasures of Australia and New Zealand. Embark in Tahiti on February 4, 2016, for the new South Pacific Serenity sailing, and you can experience the pristine beaches and sapphire lagoons of Bora Bora, Fiji and Norfolk Island, a new port of call in Australia, as well as the architectural icons of cosmopolitan Sydney.

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Sydney, Australia

 

Caribbean
Castries, St. Lucia

RIVIERA: Caribbean

Riviera explores the sunny Caribbean from the ancient Mayan ruins along the western shores to the idyllic islands of the east. What better way to spend the holiday season than on the new cruise Celebrate the Sunshine, which sails roundtrip from Miami on December 22, 2015, and spends 12 glorious days in gorgeous locales such as St. Barts, Martinique, St. Lucia and Antigua.

September 5, 2014

CHEF KELLY'S TOP 5 PLATES FOR PASTA LOVERS IN ITALY

This season Riviera has made several calls on one of my favorite culinary destinations – Italy. From Venice to Rome and from gnocchi to fettuccine, it seems like a new pasta dish has tempted me in every port of call. Here are my favorites and the restaurants where you can enjoy them on your next Oceania Cruises voyage:

Gnocchi-2

 

GNOCCHI GORGONZOLA

Ristorante da Raffaele | San Marco 2347 – Venice

Here they’ve mastered the trick to a light, pillowy gnocchi: avoid overworking the dough! Together with a glass of Soave, this was a perfect meal.

 

  Salvatore Seafood Pasta Ravello Pasta
PACCHERI CON GAMBERONI

La Vecchia Cantina | Via della Mara 15 – Ravello (near the port of Amalfi)

On our Culinary Discovery Tour in Ravello, our host Salvatore treated us to a sumptuous pasta made with shrimp and a rich, flavorful stock. A side salad of arugula really brought out the pasta’s flavor.

 

Chef Turi Sicilian Pasta with Fish
PASTA CON PESCE

Osteria Nero D’Avola | Piazza San Domenico 2 – Taormina

In Sicily, pasta is typically served with fish – and rarely with cheese! Chef Turi’s delicious pasta was complemented by bountiful treasures of the sea and a white wine from the Benanti winery on Mount Etna.

 

Roscioli Photo 3
SPAGHETTONE CARBONARA

Roscioli | Via dei Giubbonari 21 – Rome

The most decadent of all pastas, carbonara is made with egg yolks, pecorino Romano cheese and pancetta. This dish was the definition of comfort food.

 

Photo 3-1
FOCACCIA COL FORMAGGIO DI RECCO

Da Ö Vittoriö | Via Roma 160 – Recco (near the port of Portofino)

While some think of focaccia as a pizza-style bread, the Ligurian town of Recco is known for a thin, pasta-like version. On our Culinary Discovery Tour to this third-generation family restaurant, our host stretched an enormous sheet of dough over a pan, added stracchino cheese and another sheet of dough, and served us a piping hot plate of cheesy goodness right out of the oven. Focaccia prep Photo 4-1

 What’s the best pasta dish you’ve ever had and where did you enjoy it?

September 3, 2014

Executive Cellar Master Features Joseph Phelps Premium Wines

JoesephPhelps-Insignia-2010-smWith a prominent reputation among food and wine connoisseurs, Oceania Cruises continually curates a selection of some of the finest wines from top wineries around the world, including those from Joseph Phelps Winery. Founded in 1973, the family-owned Napa Valley estate winery has vineyards throughout Napa Valley, as well as along the foggy Sonoma Coast. Joseph Phelps has a history in making distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery also serves as the country’s Syrah pioneer – being the first to bottle the varietal commercially post-Prohibition.

Our sommeliers are pleased to offer you Joseph Phelps wines on board, including Insignia, the flagship wine blend that put the now famous vineyard on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers. The proprietary Napa Valley blend of red Bordeaux varietals was first produced in 1974. Year after year, Insignia continues to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest wines. Of 37 vintages, 31 have been rated 90 or more points by various wine publications, including three perfect 100-point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages from The Wine Advocate founder Robert Parker’s Historical Tasting of Insignia report (published in November 2013).

We invite you to explore Joseph Phelps wines more in-depth with our exclusive Joseph Phelps Food & Wine Trails package aboard Marina’s Discover Down Under voyage, departing February 12, 2015 from Sydney, Australia. This special cruise features tastings with the director of Joseph Phelps Winery, winemakers dinners and several wine-focused shore excursions, all while calling on a number of fascinating Australian and New Zealand destinations. Please call 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642) for further details.

Joseph Phelps wines currently featured on board include:

Joseph Phelps Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California 2010
Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley, California 2006 (proprietary blend)

The next time you are on board, ask your sommelier to pour you one of our Joseph Phelps wines, and share in a toast to your unforgettable vacation with Oceania Cruises.

September 2, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to Acquire Oceania Cruises' Parent Company

PCH-Norwegian
We have some exciting news to share.  The parent company of Oceania Cruises, Prestige Cruises International, has agreed to be acquired by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd., parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line.

This is a significant milestone and an achievement only made possible with the hard work and dedication of the entire Prestige Cruises International family, from the officers and crew onboard our ships to the staff and management team here in Miami.  

For our loyal guests, you can rest assured that the Oceania Cruises experience you’ve come to love will remain unchanged.  When we launched the business in 2003, we believed guests deserved more from their cruise vacation.  What we created was a cruise experience that appealed to discerning travelers by offering the finest cuisine at sea, impeccable personal service and itineraries that explore many of the world’s iconic destinations.  It was a formula for success, and along the way we developed a strong and loyal customer base, for which we are grateful. 

With Norwegian Cruise Line, we’ve found a partner that shares a similar passion for going above-and-beyond to deliver exceptional guest experiences and we’re excited about starting this new chapter for our company.   

When the transaction is complete later this year, it will bring together three great brands as part of one family.  The combination will create a diversified cruise operator with a full spectrum of offerings that range from family cruising on Norwegian’s innovative Freestyle Cruising ships, to the country-club casual experience on Oceania’s fleet, to the all-inclusive, more intimate experience afforded by Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury offering.

For the Oceania Cruises brand, our mission will be to preserve the distinct offerings, guest experiences and unique onboard culture our guests cherish, while always exploring ways to further enhance our upper premium experience.

Thanks for your continued interest in Oceania Cruises and we look forward to welcoming you onboard in the near future and for many years to come.   

August 28, 2014

CHEF KELLY ANNOUNCES NEW CARIBBEAN CULINARY DISCOVERY TOURS

At Oceania Cruises, we’re always seeking new opportunities for our guests to experience firsthand the culinary cultures of the marvelous destinations we visit, so I am thrilled to announce two new Culinary Discovery ToursTM that will debut on board Riviera during the upcoming Caribbean season.

St. LuciaSt. Lucia - Spices Cooking Studio

Accompanied by your Bon Appétit Culinary Center chef, you’ll begin your tour with a scenic drive along Rodney Bay to a magnificent private estate situated on the grounds of a former sugarcane plantation. You’ll explore the estate’s expansive herb garden and then head inside the home for some hands-on cooking instruction. Learn about the subtle flavors and historical influences of St. Lucian cuisine while preparing an authentic meal using fresh local ingredients. Savor your creations while dining alfresco and taking in the breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding landscapes. On the return drive to the pier, you’ll stop at the bustling open-air Castries Market, where farmers have sold locally grown fruits, vegetables and spices for nearly 100 years.

L1030781Antigua – Market Visit & Cooking Demo

In the center of downtown St. John’s, walk to the local market with your Bon Appétit Culinary Center chef, who will show you a wide variety of local fruits, such as breadfruit, mangoes, soursop, dasheen and possibly even the famous Antiguan black pineapple, known as the world’s sweetest. A short, but scenic, journey takes you to the Villas at Sunset Lane, a charming beachfront oasis owned by renowned Chef Jacquie, who will invite you into her kitchen to help prepare lunch. Chef Jacquie shops daily from local organic farmers and will share her secrets for shopping and eating seasonally. Following a hands-on cooking demonstration, enjoy a lunch of local favorites while taking in fabulous vistas of the lush gardens, private beach and sparkling bay.  

The following sailings offer your first opportunity to experience these new Culinary Discovery Tours. We hope you’ll join us!

December 23, 2014: Holidays in the Tropics, Miami to Miami (Riviera, 12 days)

January 24, 2015: Island Paradise, Miami to Miami (Riviera, 10 days)

February 23, 2015: Island Paradise, Miami to Miami (Riviera, 10 days)

 

August 26, 2014

DISCOVERING THE MIDNIGHT SUN IN NORWAY

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 A stunning view at 2 a.m. in Honningsvaag, Norway (Photo courtesy of Gair O’Neill)

On a recent voyage exploring the North Cape, Oceania Cruises Sr. Director Gair O’Neill experienced the fascinating phenomenon known as Midnight Sun in Honningsvaag, Norway’s northernmost city, a period of time during the summer when the sun never sets in locations north of the Arctic Circle. Below, Gair shares a few of his impressions on this unique destination and experience.

Talk about the land of the midnight sun--how about the land of the 2 a.m. sun?!  Sunset at 2 a.m., sunrise at 2 a.m. – the sun really just hung over the sea for a while and then started going back up again. 

Honningsvaag is buzzing with life in the summertime, and the people, the sights are all just so nice. We spent the day on a spectacular crab safari for Norwegian King crab (think Alaskan King crab on steroids – the biggest I have ever seen!). We went out and helped pull up the pots and to retrieve the crab, then they showed us how to cook them, clean them and then…well, they didn't have to show us how to eat them! And were they good! I’ve never eaten so much in my life.

Our next stop was an ice bar in town, built from blocks of ice harvested from the local lake during the winter months. They build chairs, tables, glasses – everything from the ice – and place reindeer skins on the chairs so you can comfortably sit down and relax inside.  There’s a local custom to take part in after you have a drink from an ice glass: after making your way outside, make a wish and throw the ice glass into the harbor where it melts.

Honningsvaag is not a big place, but that’s not what you visit for. It's the natural beauty of the surroundings and the people – that’s really what Norway is all about.  

Experience the unique culture of Honningsvaag and the unusual phenomenon of the Midnight Sun yourself aboard Nautica’s Great Northern Lights voyage, departing July 19, 2015. 

August 22, 2014

Q&A with Oceania Cruises’ Bridge Director Barbara Seagram

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

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

How did you first get involved in bridge?

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

What do you appreciate about bridge aboard Oceania?

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

Can you share a Barbara Seagram tip with us?

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

What advice do you have for newcomers to bridge?

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

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

 

Bridge1

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

Bridge2

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

August 19, 2014

AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 FILMS

Film journeys and evocative movie settings have long fueled travelers’ imaginations, often sparking the start of the next great journey. Last time, we shared a selection of inspiring and transportive travel books in anticipation of our upcoming Around the World in 180 Days voyage this January. To continue fueling your travel dreams, here’s a set of films that take you around the world with classic adventures, enchanting storylines and stunning visual imagery.

GreatRace(2)The Great Race (1965): A time-honored slapstick comedythat pits a scheming melodramatic villain against a classic white-suited hero in a 22,000 mile auto race from New York to Paris.

Where you’ll go: New York, Alaska, throughout Asia, Paris

 Around the World in 80 Days (1956): In this Academy Award-winning adaptation of the classic novel, Phileas Fogg sets out to prove that circumnavigating the globe in a mind-boggling 80 days is actually possible.

Where you’ll go: Paris, Spain, Bombay, Calcutta, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco

That Man From Rio (1964): A rapid-fire adventurewith never-ending twists and turns, this film follows a French soldier on temporary leave on a mad dash throughout Brazil in pursuit of his kidnapped girlfriend and lost treasure.

Where you’ll go: from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, and deep into the Amazon

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): A fascinating chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life, beginning in the rural village of his childhood, tracing his steps through to his 27-year imprisonment and eventual presidency.

Where you’ll go: throughout South Africa, including Robben Island

Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): A n internationally-acclaimed martial arts film that unfolds amidst the breathtaking backdrop of China during the 19th century as two great female warriors pursue a legendary stolen sword and struggle with societal obligations.

 Where you’ll go: throughout China including Hongcunzhen, Chengde Summer Palace in Hebei province, the Gobi Desert, Anhui Bamboo Forest in Mukeng and Cangyan Mountain

Jiro-dreams-of-sushi-movie-2012Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): This American documentary, featuring the 85-year-old sushi master, Jiro Ono, invites you into his unassuming yet world-renowned sushi bar, Sukiyabashi Jiro, offering an engaging meditation on his life’s work and sushi culture in Japan.

Where you’ll go: Tokyo

 Australia (2008): A romantic period drama, this epic features an aristocratic Englishwoman who inherits an Australian ranch and reluctantly partners with a local to drive cattle across hundreds of miles of the outback during the brink of World War II.

Where you’ll go: Sydney, Darwin, Kununurra, Bowen

Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003): Transportive on multiple levels, these epic fantasy adventure films extensively capture the dramatic beauty of New Zealand as they follow Hobbit Frodo Baggins on his quest to destroy the One Ring.

Where you’ll go: Middle Earth, a.k.a. Matamata, Waikato; Wellington; Takaka Hill, Nelson; Mount Sunday, Canterbury; Milford Sound, Fjordland National Park

South Pacific (1958): Based on Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, this Oscar-winning musical features a budding romance between a young American nurse and secretive French planter on a South Pacific island during World War II. 

Where you’ll go: islands in the South Pacific

Endless SummerEndless Summer (1966): Sparked by the concept of following summer around the world, this classic surf adventure follows two young California surfers in search of the perfect wave, exploring undiscovered surf locales throughout the globe.

Where you’ll go: coasts around the world including in Hawaii, Africa, Australia and Tahiti

What films have sparked your travels? Share them with us!

August 15, 2014

TOP 2014-2015 AMERICAS PORTS & ITINERARIES

Have you ever dreamt of tracing the age-old routes of the world’s greatest explorers? Or do you revel in discovering tucked-away gems still below the radar? Our Americas voyages offer you the chance to embrace the essence of discovery and the diversity of these incredible regions, sailing throughout Alaska, Canada & New England, the Caribbean & Panama Canal and South America. Below is just a sampling of new ports featured on these voyages, as well as a few of our hand-crafted itineraries sailing in these regions

 
Trois-rivieres-quebecTrois-Rivières, Quebec:
the second oldest city in Quebec, situated on the river along Rue des Ursulines, features historic architecture and vibrant cafes and French bistros along the lively Boulevard des Forges. The Musée Québécois de Culture Populaire offers a unique glimpse into the cultural life of the Québécois. Explore Trois-Rivières on Insignia’s Crowning Journey voyage.

 

 

Jamestown, Saint Helena: tucked away deep in the South Atlantic Ocean, this island became an important stopover during the Age of Discovery in the 16th century. One of the most isolated islands in the world, a visit to Diana’s Peak National Park provides a rare glimpse into its unique biodiversity–it’s home to a number of flora and fauna species found exclusively on the island. Explore Jamestown on Marina’s Southern Seas voyage.


Pointe-a-pitre-guadeloupePointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe:
sometimes referred to as “Butterfly Island” because of its shape, this beautiful island offers spectacular waterfalls in the jungles of Basse-Terre, scenic hikes to the top of La Grande Soufrière volcano and memorable kayaking among its protected mangroves. Explore Pointe-à-Pitre on Riviera’s Sunny Getaways voyage.

 

Trujillo, Honduras: nestled on an expansive curving bay with lushly forested mountains rising in the backdrop, this colonial outpost makes for a diverse tropical paradise. Explore the Santa Barbara Fort and Town Square for a taste of culture and history, or go on an off-road rainforest adventure or horseback riding in Campo del Mar Nature Park. Explore Trujillo on Riviera’s Colorful Caribbean voyage.


Saint-pierre-miguelonSaint-Pierre, Saint-Pierre & Miquelon: 
just off the coast of Newfoundland, these charming islands offer a little bit of France in the New World, with a mild climate, picturesque scenery, patisseries and numerous museums, such as L’Arche museum, which provides a portal into the islands’ unique history. Explore Saint-Pierre on Marina’s River Routes & Channel Crossings voyage.

 

 

Featured Americas Itineraries

Our 2014-2015 Americas brochure, hitting mailboxes August 18, features these destinations and voyages, plus an exciting range of cruises that sail throughout Alaska, Canada & New England, the Caribbean & Panama Canal and South America. For more information on the 2014-2015 Americas voyages, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642). We look forward to welcoming you aboard one of these unforgettable voyages! 

August 12, 2014

DARINA ALLEN'S BLACKBERRY VODKA RECIPE

In yesterday’s blog I told of my wonderful outing with Jacques Pépin to the Ballymaloe estate in County Cork, Ireland, the site of one of our newest Culinary Discovery Tours. Our host was Darina Allen, founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, and I thought you might enjoy this recipe from her latest book (which I highly recommend!), celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the school. It’s an infused vodka, and Darina notes that she uses orange rind, wild garlic, rhubarb, peaches and apricots as seasonal substitutions for the blackberries shown below.

 

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Ballymaloe matriarch Myrtle Allen, Jacques Pépin and Darina Allen

DARINA ALLEN'S BLACKBERRY VODKA

{makes one pint}

 

  • 1 ¼ pounds (600 grams) fresh, organic blackberries
  • 1 ½ pounds (600 grams) fine sugar
  • 1 pint vodka
  • 3 sweet geranium leaves

 

Put all the ingredients into a sterilized jar and set aside in a cool, dark place to mature for two months, shaking the contents every few days to dissolve the sugar.

After two to three months, strain, reserving the “booze-sodden” blackberries, which can be served with yogurt, panna cotta or a fruit salad. Return the strained vodka (or gin, if you prefer) to the bottle and store in a cool, dark place. Ideally the mix will be drunk within three to four months, but it can keep for up to a year.

August 11, 2014

CHEF KELLY HOSTS JACQUES PÉPIN AT BALLYMALOE IN IRELAND

We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Signature Sailing with Jacques Pépin – his cooking demonstrations, book signings and informal visits to the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. He is always eager to meet our students and see what’s cooking in our onboard culinary studio.

We especially enjoyed our call on Cobh, Ireland, where I hosted Jacques for a day at Ballymaloe Cookery School, the location of one of our newest Culinary Discovery ToursTM. Founded in 1983 by Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell, the Ballymaloe Cookery School is a bucket list destination for food enthusiasts. Allen is one of the leaders of the famed Slow Food movement in Ireland, dedicated to preserving biodiversity and artisan food production. Located on 100 acres, the school utilizes the vegetables, fruits and herbs from their organic gardens and greenhouses. They also maintain their own pigs, ducks, chickens and a small herd of Jersey cattle from which they make the most delicious buttermilk (perfect for Irish breads), yogurt, butter and cheeses.

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymaloe Cookery School 2

Ballymaloe is a family affair, and Darina’s son-in-law manages a Slow Food consortium of farmers’ markets in County Cork. We began with a stroll through the lively morning market where Jacques and I checked out the local fishmonger and explored this week’s last harvest of berries and an impressive array of root vegetables. 

Market 3 Market 1

Market 2

 

Then we were off to Ballymaloe, where the teaching kitchens were bustling with students and their cooking assignments. The school offers everything from a 12-week certificate program to 3-hour demonstration classes.

We were greeted by Darina’s son, Toby, our host for a tour of the cookery school gardens. Our tour began at the culinary herb garden (complete with a lady scarecrow) and Lydia’s Garden, a miniature Versailles. Jacques stopped to smell the herbs and noticed some snails in the hedgerow – so we had an impromptu lecture on snails. (What doesn’t Jacques Pépin know about food?!)

Garden 1

Garden 3

Garden 2

The bountiful greenhouses were brimming with tomatoes, squash, fruits, herbs and lettuces – all lovingly maintained. Behind the greenhouse are the perennial gardens, herbaceous borders, and the Shell House. In the Shell House, the entire surface – walls and ceiling – is decorated with shells in patterns that resemble the intricate and delicate mosaics of Turkey and the Middle East. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful and difficult to capture in a photograph – so you’ll have to come on a cruise with us to see it!

Greenhouse 1

Greenhouse 2  Greenhouse 3


Back Garden 2

Back Garden 1

Shell House 1

Shell House 2

JP and ChickensTo conclude our walking tour, we took the farm path that passes the chicken house, where happy chickens strolled around the yard and munched on the kitchen scraps from the morning’s cooking class. We also stopped into the dairy and were able to observe the mis en place for an upcoming demonstration on the making of yogurt, buttermilk, butter and cheese. 

For lunch, we traveled to Ballymaloe House, an elegant restaurant and hotel owned and lovingly operated by the Allen family. There we met Myrtle Allen, the family matriarch who, with her husband, founded the culinary empire that is now Ballymaloe. We were also joined at lunch by Darina, who regaled us with stories of how her family developed this 100-acre farm into the celebrated establishment it is today.

DSC_6616Jacques had brought a few of his books to share with Darina, and she asked him to sign several of his books that she had in her personal library. It was so special to see these two teaching icons together in one place and enjoying each other’s company. I was often pinching myself because it was so amazing to be in the company of two of my idols and mentors, surrounded by the dreamlike setting of Ballymaloe.

The Signature Sailing with Jacques Pépin is always one of my favorites, and our visit to Ballymaloe will always be a cherished memory. Check the blog tomorrow for Darina's recipe for blackberry vodka and in the coming weeks for the announcement of next year’s Jacques Pépin cruise! If you've ever sailed with us on a Jacques Pépin cruise, what was your fondest memory?

August 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2014

JACQUES PEPIN'S SIGNATURE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN RECIPE

Guests on board Marina enjoyed culinary demonstrations, special shore excursions and more on the annual cruise hosted by legendary master chef Jacques Pépin. As executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, Pépin has led our team of talented chefs in crafting the exquisite cuisine for which we are renowned.

IMG_7765 - Version 2In the Grand Dining Room, Pépin’s signature rotisserie chicken has always been a cornerstone of the nightly menu. This French classic is also served in Pépin’s namesake restaurant, Jacques, on board Marina and Riviera, where you can watch the herb-crusted chicken roast to succulent perfection on the gleaming display rotisserie.

In celebration of the recent Jacques Pépin Cruise, we’re sharing Pépin’s signature recipe. The secret is both the seasoning blend and the cooking method. Many grills now have rotisserie attachments, so give the recipe a try at home, or we’re of course happy to prepare it for you any evening on board one of our ships!

 

0IFC 1-37 Europe 2012_BrandingJACQUES’ ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
{ SERVES 4 }
 
SEASONING BLEND
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried sage
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
 
1 whole chicken, 4½ to 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
 
Canola oil
Fleur de sel

FOR THE SEASONING BLEND: In a spice grinder, combine the bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, and oregano and grind to a coarse powder. Transfer the ground mixture to a small bowl and stir in the salt, paprika, ginger, coriander, mace, white pepper, cloves, and cardamom.

FOR THE CHICKEN: Rotisserie and grill set-up will vary depending on the manufacturer, so follow the instructions provided with your equipment. For a grill that has a separate burner or infrared heating element for the rotisserie, preheat that area to medium-high and preheat the grill under the rotisserie to medium.

Place the chicken on a work surface and place a long piece of kitchen twine under the wings. Bring the twine up around the chicken and tie, securing the wings against the bird. Tie the drumsticks together with a separate piece of twine. Trussing the chicken will help it cook more evenly.

TO SEASON AND COOK THE CHICKEN: Rub the chicken with an even coating of the seasoning blend. You won’t need all of it. Store the remainder in an airtight container at room temperature for future use. Lightly dab the surface of the seasoned chicken with canola oil to help the spice blend adhere.

Secure the chicken to the rotisserie rod using the prongs provided. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the chicken skin from becoming too dark as the meat cooks. The chicken is done when a kitchen thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 165°F, about 1½ hours.

TO SERVE: Remove the chicken from the rotisserie and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

July 31, 2014

Jacques Pépin Hosts Marina’s Special Culinary Sojourn

Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director and world-renowned Master Chef, Jacques Pépin, began sailing on Marina’s Explore the Isles voyage last Wednesday. Chef Pépin is hosting several exciting onboard events during this Signature Sailing, including culinary demonstrations, lectures, Q&A sessions, book signings and more. This culinary sojourn also features specially designed signature menus. During a cooking demonstration on Thursday with friends and fellow chefs, Claude Martin and Jean-Michel Gammariello, Chef Pépin shared his secrets for preparing several dishes featured in his book, Essential Pépin, including Crab Cakes with Avocado Salsa, Wine Merchant Steak, Asparagus Ragout and Apple Fritters. Guests aboard Marina look forward to many more special events with Chef Pépin, which we’ll share with you here as the journey continues. 

Jpb1

Pépin with friends and fellow chefs from right, Claude Martin and
Jean-Michel Gammariello, during the cooking demonstration.

Jpb2

Pépin and Martin team up to prepare the Avocado Salsa.

Jpb3

 Pépin and Martin demonstrate the art of perfecting crab cakes.

Jpb4

Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director for over 10 years, 
Pépin pauses to embrace the camaraderie during the cooking demonstration. 

 

July 30, 2014

A WORLD OF HIDDEN TREASURES OPENS TODAY

It’s an exciting day for the Oceania Cruises family and for anyone who has ever dreamed of sailing around the world. Reservations open today at 8:30 a.m. EST for the Around the World in 180 Days 2016 voyage, sailing roundtrip from Miami on January 4, 2016, to five continents, 45 countries and 92 ports of call.

Over the course of 180 days, guests will have the opportunity to visit an incredible 57 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Included are some of the world’s most famous destinations, along with a few relatively obscure, but fascinating sites. Sure, everyone knows of UNESCO sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House – both are featured on this voyage – but you can imagine how spectacular and intriguing the lesser-known sites must be. Here are five that really capture my imagination:

Royal Palaces of Abomey (from Cotonou, Benin): These palaces in Benin were built for Dahomean kings and utilized from 1625 to 1900. King Houegbadja began the construction process, which carried on for centuries through 12 consecutive kings, honoring what locals believed was a royal family directly descended from the union of a princess and a panther.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (from Beijing, China): Seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in and around Beijing are featured on this voyage, and by far the most ancient is the cave system where the remains of Homo erectus, one of our earliest ancestors, were discovered in the 1920s. Dubbed the Peking Man, the excavation not only revealed a predecessor to Homo sapiens but also uncovered ancient fossils that showed early use of fire and tools.

Komodo DragonKomodo National Park (from Komodo, Indonesia): The island of Komodo is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites designated solely to protect a single species – in this case the Komodo dragon. Reminiscent of a creature from the age of the dinosaurs, this massive monitor lizard can grow up to 10 feet in length.

Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (from Mombasa, Kenya): In the forests of Kenya, fortified villages known as kayas were inhabited from the 16th to the mid-20th centuries and are now revered as sacred spiritual abodes of Mijikenda ancestors. Efforts to protect these villages not only preserve the cultural traditions of the Mijikenda people but also conserve rare groves of the lowland forest that once blanketed the coast.

Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area (from Kyoto, Japan): Dating to the seventh century, the 48 monuments that comprise this temple complex are among the oldest wooden structures of any kind still standing in the world. The pagodas are a blend of Chinese and Korean influences and a majestic example of beauty in architecture dedicated to spiritual pursuits.

Horyu-ji
Around the World in 180 Days 2016
opens up a world of hidden treasures. Which UNESCO World Heritage Site would you most like to visit?

July 23, 2014

GO BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS: AROUND THE WORLD IN 180 DAYS 2016

Just about everyone has experienced that moment when you’re watching a travel show or reading a magazine and you see your dream destination — the place that instantly makes you feel, “I want to go there.” One dream destination grows to two, then three, and soon you find yourself with a lengthy list of intriguing locales around the world that you want to visit. The challenge becomes determining which ones you’ll cross off your list first.

A year ago, Oceania Cruises conceived a dream-come-true cruise that lets you do it all — a 180-day journey that circumnavigates the globe. It spurred such excitement that a second 180-day cruise was released soon after. Now Oceania Cruises is announcing the newest voyage in this series of world exploration cruises, Around the World in 180 Days 2016.

Setting sail on January 4, 2016, this once-in-a-lifetime voyage will visit five continents, 45 countries and 57 UNESCO World Heritage Sites while traversing over 47,068 nautical miles. You’ll set foot on 45 different islands, pass the equator six times, marvel at 19 national capitals and cross all 24 time zones and the International Date Line.

Departing Miami, sail for the Caribbean and South America where you visit ports in Trinidad and Tobago, French Guiana and Brazil. Then head to Africa and the spectacular scenery of countries such as Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique. After traveling around the African continent, you sail for Asia to enjoy two-night stays in Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar), and Shanghai, China, as well as visits to countless exotic and alluring locales. Insignia then makes a number of stops in the South Pacific, including Oceania Cruises’ first call on the Australian port of Cooktown, serving as a gateway for the Great Barrier Reef and the Aboriginal community of Hopevale. Sail on to the lush islands of Hawaii and continue to Los Angeles before heading down the west coast of the Americas through the Panama Canal and returning to Miami on July 1, 2016.

For seasoned travelers and novice explorers alike, perhaps the greatest appeal of this globe-circling adventure is that it offers the most cherished luxury of all: time. One of the reasons for the immense success of Insignia’s 180-day journeys is that the destination specialists of Oceania Cruises recognize the value of time to explore, time to experience, and time to relax and savor the moment. This is what inspired the 180-day itinerary that visits 92 ports of call and includes 14 overnight stays, ranging from Beijing to Bali and from Singapore to Sydney.

Of course, when you’re eagerly anticipating the moment at which you can reserve your dream voyage, you wish time would pass more quickly. Bookings for Around the World in 180 Days 2016 will open at 8:30 a.m. EST on July 30, 2014. In this case you’ll be rewarded for acting fast, because guests reserving their suite or stateroom by October 31, 2014, will receive 2 for 1 cruise fares, free First Class roundtrip airfare from major U.S. and Canadian gateways, and early booking savings of up to 71 percent. In addition, guests will receive the Exclusive Prestige Package, which includes perks ranging from free pre-paid gratuities — a value up to $8,300 — to free exclusive shoreside events, free unlimited Internet, a free visa package, free onboard medical services and more.

What ports of call would you most like to visit on the voyage of your dreams?

July 14, 2014

AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 BOOKS

For every traveler, an around-the-world journey embodies the ultimate travel experience. The longevity and vastness of an around-the-world trip open the door to more meaningful explorations, unparalleled cultural discoveries, pursuing your passions — in essence, life-changing experiences — just not feasible on shorter trips. With Oceania Cruises' inaugural Around the World in 180 Days voyage, you can experience just that: Your World. Your Way.®

Around the WOrld in 80 DaysWhile everyone takes the plunge for different reasons, the same bubbling anticipation takes place the weeks and months before your trip. What better way to feed your travel anticipation than to dive into books that transport you to places all around the globe you’ll soon see?

Here are a few of our favorites:

Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne: This timeless travel adventure follows Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout around the world by rail and by steamer after Fogg accepts a ₤20,000 bet that he can tour the world in 80 days.

Where you’ll go: London, Bombay, Hong Kong and Yokohama, among others

Full Circle: One Man’s Journey by Air, Train, Boat and Occasionally Very Sore Feet Around the 50,000 Miles of the Pacific Rim, Michael Palin: Serving as the written counterpart to the 10-part PBS series, this day-by-day recount of Palin’s fascinating journey visits 17 countries around the world’s largest ocean.

Round About the EarthWhere you’ll go: Russia; throughout Vietnam, Japan and China; Australia; New Zealand; and Tierra del Fuego, just to name a few

Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, Joyce E. Chaplin: History buffs will especially love this immersion into the history of around-the-world travel, a tradition nearly 500 years old.

Where you’ll go: Historical global circuits of every kind, even the first via bicycle, balloon and submarine

Time Among the Maya, Ronald Wright: Wright explores the ancient roots of Mayan culture, encompassing history, anthropology, politics and religion to provide a thorough study on the enduring civilization.

Where you’ll go: Guatemala, Belize and Mexico

Brazilian AdventureBrazilian Adventure, Peter Fleming: Fleming goes on a loosely planned 1932 expedition into once-unexplored areas of Brazil on a quest for missing English explorer Colonel P.H. Fawcett.  

Where you’ll go: 3,000 miles of wilderness and rivers in central Brazil

The Tree Where Man Was Born, Peter Matthiessen: During trips over the course of a dozen years, Matthiessen captures vivid scenes and firsthand accounts that create a timeless portraiture of East Africa.

Where you’ll go: Maasailand,Tanzania, the Kenyan Highlands and Mt. Kilimanjaro, among others

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela: Written in large part during Mandela’s imprisonment, this powerful autobiography traces Mandela’s path to becoming president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, offering deep insight into the political and social forces that contributed to the oppression of black people in South Africa.

Where you’ll go: South Africa

An Area of Darkness, V.S. Naipaul: A classic modern travelogue, this stunningly perceptive account of Naipaul’s first travels to India tells of how he grapples with profound ancestral questions and disillusionment. 

The Quiet AmericanWhere you’ll go: Bombay, Kashmir, Himalayan caves and Madras, among others

The Quiet American, Graham Greene: A celebrated anti-war novel written in 1955, the lyrical narrative masterfully weaves together a romantic encounter with a political parable in a charged portrayal of the conflict between the Communists and French colonial powers in Vietnam.

Where you’ll go: Saigon

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang: In this story of three generations in 20th century China, Chang blends history and memoir to portray Chinese social history during the decades preceding the Communist revolution.

Where you’ll go: Yibin and throughout the province of Sichuan, and later London 

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding, Robert Hughes: In a sweeping historical account of Australia, Hughes sites diaries, letters and other original sources to meticulously explore the historical, political and sociological reasons that led to England’s infamous convict transportation system.

Where you’ll go: Norfolk Island, Moreton Bay and Tasmania; Sydney, Port Macquarie and throughout New South Wales

In the South Seas, Robert Louis Stevenson: Published in 1896, this South Pacific classic fuses the culture, traditions and history of Polynesia and Micronesia with Stevenson’s personal impressions.

Where you’ll go: Tahiti, Samoan Islands and Kiribati, to name a few

Stay tuned for part two, when we’ll take you around the world in movies. Happy reading!

July 9, 2014

ALASKA AND REGATTA: THE PERFECT COMBINATION

By Jason Lasecki, Senior Director of Public Relations

The hottest thing on cable television these days seems to be America’s 49th state. With shows ranging from Alaska State Troopers and Deadliest Catch to Buying Alaska and Wild Alaska, there is a never-ending fascination with America’s last frontier, and with good reason. Alaska offers some of the most picturesque and pristine natural settings in the world, and there’s no better way to experience the wonderment of Alaska than on board the newly refurbished Regatta.

Having recently sailed on the 10-night Majesty of Alaska voyage, it’s clear to me that the beauty and splendor of Alaska coupled with the elegance and style of Regatta create a magical and memorable combination.

Regatta

The ship itself was immaculate, and the additions made during the refurbishment, such as Baristas coffee bar and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café, were a huge hit with guests sailing on Regatta. Many guests congregated at the redesigned Horizons bar to soak in some musical entertainment and incredible Alaskan vistas, while others enjoyed sipping a cocktail at the restyled Martinis.   

Baristas(New)

Horizons(New)

Oceania Cruises is well known for having the finest cuisine at sea, and when it’s paired with one of Alaska’s stunning late evening sunsets, you’re assured an amazing dining experience. While enjoying an exquisite dinner one particular evening at Toscana, we were treated to a painted sky sunset as the ship sailed a scenic fjord, passing by glimmering waterfalls and soaring bald eagles.

Sunset

The intimate nature of Oceania Cruises’ mid-size ships allows the staff to provide attentive personalized service to each guest, and the ideally sized ships offer an additional advantage when cruising Alaska because the captain can provide closer and more breathtaking views of one of Alaska’s premier attractions—the glaciers! During our visit to Hubbard Glacier, we were so close we could hear popping sounds as sheets of ice calved into the ocean.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier 2

One of the highlights of any Alaska cruise is the wildlife. Whales, bears, eagles, otters and seals are abundant, and Oceania Cruises offers a wide array of shore excursions that provide you the best opportunities to see these majestic animals. Definitely a sight to remember was a pod of orcas that paid our boat a visit during a whale-watching tour in Juneau. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s common to spot whales, eagles, seals and sea lions from the comfort of Regatta.

Orca Pod 2

Orca Pod

Speaking of wildlife, we came across this guy while on a nature hike in Hoonah. Readers, any clue on what species of bird this is?

Bird

July 4, 2014

GLOBAL ECHOES OF FREEDOM

On this day in 1776, a document was signed in Philadelphia that set a group of British colonies on a path that would lead to the United States of America. Fourth of July parades, fireworks and picnics celebrate the independence that America won and continues to cherish. As Blogger-at-Large, sailing with Oceania Cruises inspires me to both appreciate freedom at home and marvel at the sparks of freedom around the globe. An Oceania Cruises voyage offers the opportunity to visit sites where history was made, walk in the footsteps of those who changed its course, and gain new perspective on the world as we know it today.

For example, join Oceania Cruises for a cruise to Canada and New England and you will most likely have a call in Boston. Years before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, the rumblings of freedom began in Boston Harbor on a cold winter day in December 1773, when a protest against colonial taxation without representation saw a band of patriots toss crates of British tea into the dark waters. From such a small act of defiance, a great nation would eventually grow.

Boston Harbor

Several Oceania Cruises voyages offer shore excursions to Berlin, where monuments pay tribute to struggles for freedom in more recent history. The Brandenburg Gate was constructed centuries before but now stands as a symbol of the modern reunification of Germany, as does the preserved section of the Berlin Wall where more than 100 international artists created an open-air gallery as an inspiring tribute to freedom.

Brandenburg Gate

All eyes have been on Brazil during the World Cup, and on an Oceania Cruises voyage, you can explore host cities from Recife to Rio to São Paulo while also learning the history of this nation that gained independence from Portugal in 1822. Visit the Monument to the Independence of Brazil on the banks of the Ipiranga Brook in São Paulo, where Dom Pedro I proclaimed the country’s independence.

World travels give us greater perspective on the rewards of freedom as well as the immense struggles by which it is earned. As I watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, I celebrate the freedom dreamed of not only by America’s founders, but also by the citizens of nations around the world. 

June 27, 2014

FIVE ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS THAT TELL TALES OF BUCHAREST

Athenaeum Bucharest
Romanian Athenaeum

The colorful history of Bucharest, Romania’s capital and largest city, can be read in the architectural lines of its most famous buildings. Prior to World War II, the city's elegant architecture and sophisticated culture earned it the nickname “Paris of the East.” Today the cityscape is far more eclectic with remains of medieval churches, French palaces, Soviet Era buildings and 21st century construction. Join Riviera’s Black Sea Legends cruise, featuring an overnight in Constanta, and you can travel to nearby Bucharest to see these five architectural landmarks that capture a bit of this city’s storied past:

Radu Vodă Monastery: Founded by the reigning prince in 1568, this church has a fascinating history of occupation by the Turks, destruction by fire, reconstruction in the 17th century and extensive rebuilding in the 19th century.  The monastery is notable not only for its architectural beauty but also because it stands on the site of the oldest known settlement in Romania, dating back well over 10,000 years.

St. Nicholas Bucharest
St. Nicholas Russian Church

Romanian Athenaeum: A symbol of national pride, this elegant concert hall has been an important cultural landmark since it was built in 1888. Financed almost entirely by money raised from the general public, the "Give a penny for the Athenaeum" campaign saved the project after the original patrons ran out of funds. The gorgeous dome of the lobby ceiling sparkles with gold leaf, and the inside of the concert hall is decorated with a monumental fresco depicting some of the most important events in Romanian history.

CEC Palace: Once the site of a 16th century monastery and church, the CEC Palace was built in 1900 as the headquarters for the savings bank CEC. One of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest, it is now open to the public as a museum. A particularly striking feature, the enormous glass and metal dome allows natural light to flood the ornate main hall.

St. Nicholas Russian Church: A rare site in Romania, classic Russian onion-shaped domes define the silhouette of this church, originally a gift to Bucharest’s Russian community from the Russian emperor Nicholas II. Authority over the church transferred repeatedly between Russia and Romania before it finally became a Romanian Orthodox Church serving students and professors at the University of Bucharest. The gilded iconostasis is said to be a copy of the altar in the Cathedral of the Archangel in Moscow's Kremlin.

Palace of Parliament Bucharest
Palace of the Parliament

Palace of the Parliament of Romania: Bucharest's immense Palace of the Parliament was meant to be the pièce de résistance of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu's ambitious urban development plan. Construction began in 1984 after demolishing most of Bucharest's historic districts, including 28 churches and synagogues and more than 30,000 residences. The world's second largest building by surface area, it stands 12 stories tall and has over 1,000 rooms, 480 chandeliers and over two million square feet of woven carpets.

June 23, 2014

THE BOUNTY OF PROVENCE INSPIRES RATATOUILLE RECIPES

Is there a more glorious season than summer in the south of France? The markets of Marseille, Nice, Antibes and other coastal towns are bursting with color from the abundance of fresh vegetables. In the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board Riviera, we’re celebrating the bounty of Provence by making one of the region’s signature dishes, ratatouille, and we’ve shared our recipe here. Feel free to substitute whatever veggies are fresh and in season at your hometown market, or come join us on a Riviera sailing where you can shop the local markets and learn to prepare this classic dish in the very region where it was invented!

Peppers

Garlic

Zucchini Tomatoes
 

Classic Ratatouille

{ serves 6 }

½ cup olive oil


1 medium eggplant, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 medium zucchini, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced

2 large onions, diced                                                                                                                 

5 to 6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

¼ cup white wine

4 to 5 fresh or canned tomatoes, diced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig marjoram

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence    

6 to 10 Niçoise olives (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the eggplant for about 8 minutes, until cooked. Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside. Carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

     Heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and sauté the zucchini until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

     Heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and sauté the bell pepper until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

     Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and then immediately add the wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated and the mixture is nearly dry, or “sec.” Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked. 

     Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste to enrich the sauce. Add the remaining tablespoon if desired, but be careful not to add too much tomato paste as it can overpower the vegetables. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper to the tomato mixture and incorporate well. Top the mixture with thyme, marjoram, and herbes de Provence.

     Cover and warm on low heat. Do not cook the mixture; merely heat until the vegetables are warm. Garnish with olives if desired.

 

June 18, 2014

A RED GINGER FAVORITE: LOBSTER PAD THAI

Today we’re sharing our recipe for Lobster Pad Thai, one of the most popular dishes served at the onboard restaurant Red Ginger. There are many variations; our version is light, fragrant and not too spicy – although you can certainly add extra kick if your palate prefers! We hope you’ll try the recipe at home or come taste the Asian creations of our talented chefs on board – either in Red Ginger restaurant on Marina and Riviera, or in the Grand Dining Room on Regatta, Insignia and Nautica where dishes from Red Ginger are featured nightly.

LOBSTER PAD THAI

IMG_0160 - Version 23 cups rice noodles
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamari sauce or light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (optional)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small leek, thinly sliced
1 cup lobster, shrimp, chicken, or pressed tofu pieces
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 lime wedges
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon slivered daikon radish, salted (optional)

Soak the rice noodles in warm water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain well.

In a small bowl, whisk the tamarind paste in the water until dissolved. Add the fish sauce, tamari sauce, rice wine vinegar, and palm sugar. For a spicy dish, add the nam prick pao. Whisk well and set aside.

Lay out the remaining ingredients and garnishes in the order they will be used, so you will be able to work quickly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and two-thirds of the scallions, reserving the remaining scallions for garnish. Heat for 30 seconds to release the aromas, moving the ingredients constantly to avoid burning them. Push the garlic, ginger, and scallions up one side of the wok, off the direct heat. Add the leek and cook for about 1 minute, until it softens. Push the leek up the side of the wok. Add the lobster and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it turns opaque. Mix the lobster with the garlic, ginger, scallions, and leeks.

Working quickly, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and the eggs and scramble lightly. Then add the prepared noodles and sauce and stir-fry everything for about 1 minute, just until the noodles are warm. Fold in the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce and nam prik pao if needed. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the toasted sesame oil. Quickly transfer the pad Thai to plates or bowls.

Garnish with the lime wedges, peanuts, the reserved scallions, and the radish. Serve immediately.

June 17, 2014

SUMMER BREWS ON A CULINARY DISCOVERY TOUR IN OSLO

My friend and colleague Chef Annie B. Copps led guests on a fabulous Culinary Discovery Tour in Oslo to kick off the Baltic season. Check out her blog below:

The Scandinavian port of Oslo, Norway, was the perfect place to kick off a series of Culinary Discovery Tours as Marina makes the Baltic Sea home for the summer months. After a long and cold winter, Norwegians have been bursting with anticipation for the arrival of summer, and we were warmly welcomed to Oslo by enthusiastic locals enjoying a bright and sunny day. We explored the historic streets of the city and toasted the wonderful weather with the region’s favorite summer beverage – beer!

We were greeted by beer aficionado Bjerte at his beer academy, a downtown spot dedicated to the study of beer. Fortunately for us, this study involved tasting. We learned about the history of beer in the Norwegian culture and the growing popularity of artisanal and home brewing. After tasting both a commercial pilsner and artisanal Belgian ale, we were off to the Mathallen Food Hall.

Beer Academy

Commercial and Artisanal beer

The short walk through Oslo to the Food Hall was particularly beautiful with all the trees and flowers in bloom. We crossed the Aker River and arrived at Mathallen, located in a former rail works building along the riverbank. We strolled among the neatly arranged food stalls, and guests sampled cheese, smoked fish, cured meats, pastries and chocolate.

Aker River

Mathallen Food Hall

Bjerte led us to his eatery, Oltorget, where we sampled more beer – this time paired with cheese. Pouring our beer was Kim Daniel, who is a master bartender and champion beer pourer. He won top honors at the annual championship in the Czech Republic, which requires knowledge of pouring techniques and the brew’s history. The two masters served a tart beer paired with fresh, tangy goat cheese, followed by a rich porter matched with an aged blue cheese. Perfection!

Oltorget at Mathallen-Kim and Bjerte

Oltorget Beer List Porter beer

Next we enjoyed lunch at a restaurant called Smalhans, a word of German origin that loosely translates as "frugal." The restaurant is so named because it sources seasonal local produce and ingredients to create an ever-changing menu of simple yet delectable dishes offered at a remarkable value. A light, warm potato salad laced with artichokes, roasted red peppers and capers in a light vinaigrette was served alongside fresh asparagus and a red fish called uer fisk. (Search the internet for an image of this fish and you’ll see it looks like something out of Dr. Seuss!) A light Weissen, or wheat beer, was served with our main course. For dessert, ruby red strawberries over panna cotta were paired with a hearty stout that mimics many of the flavors of coffee. It was an excellent end to a delightful summer day of perfect pairings in beautiful Oslo.

Smallhans meal

June 13, 2014

FARM-TO-TABLE CUISINE ON A NEW CULINARY DISCOVERY TOUR IN COUNTY CORK

As I continue the Culinary Discovery ToursTM with our guests on Riviera, the delightful and talented Chef Annie B. Copps is hosting guests on board Marina. Below is a blog from Chef Annie about our exciting new tour in County Cork, Ireland:

Local. Seasonal. Sustainable. It is wonderful that these words are part of our culinary vocabulary—and even more wonderful that this is not a passing trend, but an age-old model that so many chefs and farmers strive to embrace. On Oceania Cruises' newest Culinary Discovery Tour, Marina guests visited the Ballymaloe Cookery School, where they practice this philosophy today and have been for decades, even before it was “cool.”

Ballymaloe Cookery School

The Ballymaloe estate is a short drive through the spectacular County Cork countryside of rolling hills covered with verdant crops, ancient castles, small villages and herds of cows and sheep. Ballymaloe consists of a hotel, market shop, professional cooking school and a certified organic working farm with both crops and livestock. Our tour began with a history of the Allen family, who have worked the land for three generations, and then a walking tour of the beautiful grounds. Each of the many gardens we visited seemed like a secret spot that we luckily happened upon, because each is separated by intricate topiaries, canopies and trellises—it all felt a bit like the work of fairies. There were also large open fields filled with sculptures. One garden was entirely herbs and artichokes. Another was cutting flowers, and a third grew potatoes and carrots. One had chickens running about. The family also maintains a large greenhouse, which was filled with tomatoes of all sorts ready to be picked.

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After our jaunt we settled in for a cooking lesson taught by Chef Pamela Black, whose bright red hair, soft giggle and twinkle in her eye belied her serious cooking talent. For all the good food we saw growing, the proof was indeed in the pudding. Chef Pam demonstrated traditional Irish soda bread, butterflied chicken breast and potatoes boiled with a touch of fresh mint. I can’t remember a potato tasting better than these, which were pulled from the ground that morning.

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We also enjoyed a salad of freshly picked greens and a lovely soft meringue filled with fresh strawberries—the first of the season. It was a simple meal, but an honest one made with ingredients almost entirely from the property. The exceptions were the wheat, olive oil and the chickens, which came from another local farm. At Ballymaloe they use their chickens for their eggs and get whole chickens from others to support their neighbors—also part of sustainability.

With full bellies and happy hearts, we made our way back home to Marina for a stunning sail away from the harbor of Cobh. I can’t wait to return and share this wonderful experience with more Oceania Cruises guests!

June 10, 2014

REGATTA REFURBISHMENT COMPLETE – GUESTS EXPERIENCE THE OLIFE IN ALASKA

By Kunal S. Kamlani, President

Regatta Alaska

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

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

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

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

 

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

June 4, 2014

TOP UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SOUTH AMERICA

IguazuSouth America is a fount of stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems, historic cities and architectural masterpieces. Numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites await your discovery on this great continent, and below are some of our top choices for must-see destinations you can visit with Oceania Cruises. Be sure to add these to your bucket list!

Iguazu National Park (Buenos Aires): Over 250 feet high and nearly 9,000 feet wide, the magnificent waterfalls at the heart of Iguazu National Park, situated on the border between Argentina and Brazil, emit a thunderous roar as their spectacular cascades crash into the massive river below.

Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Rio de Janeiro): From the highest peaks in Tijuca National Park to the shores of the sea, this site includes lush botanical gardens, Corcovado Mountain with its iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and the scenic hills around Guanabara Bay.

Cristo RedentorHistoric Center of the Town of Olinda (Recife): Dating mostly from the 18th century, the historic center of Olinda is celebrated for its harmonious balance between public and private buildings, accented by beautiful gardens, charming Baroque churches, convents and numerous small chapels.

Peninsula Valdés (Puerto Madryn): The nearly 250-mile shoreline of Peninsula Valdés supports a diverse ecosystem that is home to a variety of rare and endemic species and is a breeding ground for the endangered southern right whale as well as southern elephant seals and southern sea lions.

Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaiso (Valparaiso): One of the first and most important ports on the sea routes along the Pacific Coast of South America, Valparaiso’s historic quarter presents a beautifully preserved example of late 19th century urban architectural design in Latin America.

 

 

May 27, 2014

CULINARY ADVENTURES WITH CHEF KELLY IN ISTANBUL

The city of Istanbul is as remarkable for its breathtaking skyline as it is for its exquisite food found in the labyrinth of winding streets and neighborhoods below. The Turks love food and are proud of their culinary heritage, so hosting a Culinary Discovery Tour here is as much about meeting the people as it is about tasting the delicious cuisine.

Our first destination was Istanbul’s famous spice market. As we approached the market, the tantalizing smells of roasting eggplant, searing kabobs, and pide baking in wood-fired ovens emanated from the restaurants and market stalls lining the streets. As we entered, the bright lights and vibrant colors invited us to explore.

Spice Market

In the first spice shop we visited, we were treated to a lesson on how to tell real saffron from the many imposters one can find all around the Mediterranean. When you put the stamen of saffron in warm water, real saffron will turn the water an amber-gold color, while fake saffron will leave the water a pale yellow. Considering this exquisite spice is one of the most expensive in the world, you certainly want to ensure you’re getting the real deal!

Market-Saffron

Our next stop was a cheese shop where we compared fresh goat’s milk cheese to a more aged variety. We then visited a shop with cured meats and other delicacies. Finally, we were off to the fish market to check out the fresh catch of the day and savor the fish roasting on open grills. I had brought with me a chart listing the fish of the Mediterranean, so we were able to expertly identify sea bass, sea bream, snails, blue fish, flounder and much more. I took this opportunity to go over the things I look for when buying fresh fish: bright eyes, hearty flesh, scales and fins intact, no belly-burn from being packed in ice, maroon-colored gill flesh and a fresh sea smell.

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Market-Fish

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We then toured the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, before heading to the Turkish Cultural Center for lunch at NAR, a restaurant that offers authentic Ottoman Turkish cuisine in a modern setting. Here we were served a tasty selection of dozens of dishes, each meant to be enjoyed in one to three bites as part of a degustation that formed a mosaic of tastes, flavors, textures and sensations. What an absolutely exquisite and delightful culinary experience!

NAR Table

NAR Food

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After lunch we were treated to a mouthwatering demonstration of traditional candy making. The candy, caramel rolled in mastic sugar, had a hint of mild pine that was both unique and delicious! Everyone was very impressed by the master candy maker and his apprentice.

Candy Maker

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Our day in Istanbul was a wonderful start to a fantastic voyage through some of my favorite culinary destinations in the Mediterranean!