January 16, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: Sunset Over The Temples of Bagan

© Dr. John Freedman

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2015

Chef Kelly Welcomes Talented New Culinary Faculty

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

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

Read more about these two talented chefs!

Chef Susie Heller

Chef Susie Heller
Chef Susie Heller

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

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

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

Chef Dave Cruz

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

Chef Dave Cruz
Chef Dave Cruz

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

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

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

January 9, 2015

Salmon Two Ways: Pan-Seared & Aquavit-Cured

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

PAN-SEARED LACQUERED SALMON
{ SERVES 6 }

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

Recipe1½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup dry sherry

3 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar

Canola oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe2SALMON

½ cup sea salt

1 teaspoon crushed red peppercorns

½ cup brown sugar

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

1 pound salmon fillet, boned and trimmed

2 tablespoons aquavit  

SALAD

2 English cucumbers

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons minced dill

2 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons sour cream

Freshly ground black pepper

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

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

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

Bon appétit! 

January 7, 2015

Baltic Lore: Alluring Throughout the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 5, 2015

New Year’s Eve Celebrations: Ships Welcome 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year from Oceania Cruises!

December 26, 2014

New Year’s Eve Traditions From Around the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2014

The Story of the Nutcracker Doll

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

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

Nutcracker1 Nutcracker5 Nutcracker3

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

Happy Holidays from Oceania Cruises!

December 19, 2014

Introducing Sirena: Arriving Summer 2016

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

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

ToscanaSirena Highlights

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

December 17, 2014

Classic Chocolate Bread Pudding Recipe

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

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

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

(Serves 6 to 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2014

Guest Lecturer Post: Spectacular Angkor

Spectacular Angkor© Dr. John Freedman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 10, 2014

Discovering Denali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

97642

K93

3

AJ62

 

 ---

QJ10876

A52

KQ43

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

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

 J643

A52

 AQ3

Q102

 

 

KQ752

643

K7

KJ6

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

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

32

Q108

432

AK542 

 

 

AQ87

AKJ9754

AK

 --- 

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

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2014

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

Captain Dimitrios Flokos
Captain Dimitrios Flokos

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

How did your childhood shape your ambitions and dreams?

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

Capt. Flokos in Cannes
Capt. Flokos in Cannes

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

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

Can you share one of your most memorable experiences? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon voyage from Captain Flokos!

December 3, 2014

Find Your Place in the Sun: My Favorite Caribbean Beaches

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

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

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

Antigua Antigua Antigua

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

St. Barts St. Barts St. Barts

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

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

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

St. Lucia St. Lucia St. Lucia

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

December 1, 2014

Bora Bora: 5 Amazing Underwater Discoveries

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Treat: Franck Garanger's Famous Mashed Potatoes

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

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

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

PotatoesFRANCK GARANGER’S MASHED POTATOES

{SERVES 4 TO 6}

 1 pound medium russet potatoes, peeled

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup whole milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

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

1 teaspoon kosher salt

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

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

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

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

November 25, 2014

Chopsticks: A Brief History From Bamboo to Bronze

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 21, 2014

Holiday Wines: Our Favorite Red & Favorite White

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

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

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

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

Blog1 Holidaywine3 Holidaywine2

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

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

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

Holidaywine4 Holidaywine7 Holidaywine6

November 19, 2014

Pop Tiki Culture: The Fascinating History

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

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

The Origin of Pop Tiki Culture

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

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

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

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

November 17, 2014

Oceania Cruises Voyages Give New Meaning to "Holiday Travel"

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

PACIFIC SERENADE, Valparaiso to Papeete, December 17, 2014

18 days on board Marina

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

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

15 days on board Nautica

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

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

12 days on board Riviera

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

November 14, 2014

Gaudí’s Magnificent Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain

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

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

Parc Güell
Parc Güell

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

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

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

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

Gaudí’s Top Sites in Barcelona

La Sagrada Família
La Sagrada Família

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

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

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

Casa Milà
Casa Milà

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

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

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

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

Coastal Hideaways from Barcelona to Rome | April 25, 2015

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

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

November 12, 2014

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

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

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

Celebrating Jacques in 2015   Celebrating Jacques in 2015

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

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

Celebrating Jacques in 2015    Celebrating Jacques in 2015

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

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

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

November 10, 2014

Sneak Preview: Celebrity Guest Chefs in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2014

Behind the Scenes in Baristas: A Brief History of Espresso

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

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

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

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

Baristas Baristas Barista's Onboard Insignia

November 5, 2014

Poll Results Just In: Your Favorite Cruise Regions

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

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

Caribbean Caribbean

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

Emed3  Emed4

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

Wmed2  Wmed1

November 3, 2014

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

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

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

What is your favorite region to visit?

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

Italy Kotor Croatia

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

Peru Fjords Patagonia

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

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

Alaska Norway Greece


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

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

When is your next cruise, and to where?

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

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.

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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.