October 20, 2014

Cool Cocktails in the Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2014

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

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

Beijing: Crowne Plaza Beijing Lido

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

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

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

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

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

Book early; space is limited!

Papeete: Radisson Plaza Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book early; space is limited!

October 15, 2014

Spa Experience: Guest Shares How to Ease Jet Lag

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

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

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

-Guest sailing on Riviera; August 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 13, 2014

Off the Beaten Path in the Caribbean: 3 Unique Ports

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

October 8, 2014

Exotic South Pacific: Rare Flora & Fauna

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



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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

October 6, 2014

The Grandeur of the Great Wall of China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!
 

October 4, 2014

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

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

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

CHICKPEAS WITH SPINACH, GARLIC & IBERIAN HAM

{ SERVES 4 }

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2014

CHEF KELLY LAUNCHES 2014 SPANISH CULINARY DISCOVERY TOURS IN CÁDIZ

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

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

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

 

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

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

El Faro couple Jamon and bar Shrimp omelet

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

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

September 30, 2014

The African Safari: Adventures of a Lifetime

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

September 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 26, 2014

8 Tips: Travel Smart with Your Smartphone

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

Before you leave:

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

 During your trip:

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

FREE INTERNET: New for Winter 2015-2016

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

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

September 24, 2014

Panama Canal Celebrates 100th Anniversary

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

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

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


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

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

September 9, 2014

OCEANIA CRUISES UNVEILS NEW 2015-2016 WINTER COLLECTION

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

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

TierraFuego_Ushuaia_shutterstock_1371166
Tierra del Fuego, South America

REGATTA: The Americas

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

INSIGNIA: Around the World

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

WalvisBay_dreamstime_29142735
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.

BoraBora_dreamstime_37279922
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.

Sydney_Marina_IMG_0024
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

Blog-8-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 22, 2014

Q&A with Oceania Cruises’ Bridge Director Barbara Seagram

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

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

How did you first get involved in bridge?

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

What do you appreciate about bridge aboard Oceania?

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

Can you share a Barbara Seagram tip with us?

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

What advice do you have for newcomers to bridge?

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

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

 

Bridge1

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

Bridge2

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

August 19, 2014

AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 FILMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you’ll go: Tokyo

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

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

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

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

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

Where you’ll go: islands in the South Pacific

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

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

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

August 15, 2014

TOP 2014-2015 AMERICAS PORTS & ITINERARIES

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

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

 

 

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


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

 

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


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

 

 

Featured Americas Itineraries

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

August 12, 2014

DARINA ALLEN'S BLACKBERRY VODKA RECIPE

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

 

DSC_6616
Ballymaloe matriarch Myrtle Allen, Jacques Pépin and Darina Allen

DARINA ALLEN'S BLACKBERRY VODKA

{makes one pint}

 

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

 

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

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

August 11, 2014

CHEF KELLY HOSTS JACQUES PÉPIN AT BALLYMALOE IN IRELAND

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

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

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymaloe Cookery School 2

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

Market 3 Market 1

Market 2

 

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

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

Garden 1

Garden 3

Garden 2

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

Greenhouse 1

Greenhouse 2  Greenhouse 3


Back Garden 2

Back Garden 1

Shell House 1

Shell House 2

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2014

JACQUES PEPIN'S SIGNATURE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN RECIPE

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 31, 2014

Jacques Pépin Hosts Marina’s Special Culinary Sojourn

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

Jpb1

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

Jpb2

Pépin and Martin team up to prepare the Avocado Salsa.

Jpb3

 Pépin and Martin demonstrate the art of perfecting crab cakes.

Jpb4

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

 

July 30, 2014

A WORLD OF HIDDEN TREASURES OPENS TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2014

AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 BOOKS

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

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

Here are a few of our favorites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you’ll go: Guatemala, Belize and Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

Where you’ll go: South Africa

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

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

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

Where you’ll go: Saigon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2014

ALASKA AND REGATTA: THE PERFECT COMBINATION

By Jason Lasecki, Senior Director of Public Relations

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

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

Regatta

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

Baristas(New)

Horizons(New)

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

Sunset

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

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier 2

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

Orca Pod 2

Orca Pod

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

Bird

July 4, 2014

GLOBAL ECHOES OF FREEDOM

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

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

Boston Harbor

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

Brandenburg Gate

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

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

June 27, 2014

FIVE ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS THAT TELL TALES OF BUCHAREST

Athenaeum Bucharest
Romanian Athenaeum

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

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

St. Nicholas Bucharest
St. Nicholas Russian Church

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

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

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

Palace of Parliament Bucharest
Palace of the Parliament

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

June 23, 2014

THE BOUNTY OF PROVENCE INSPIRES RATATOUILLE RECIPES

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

Peppers

Garlic

Zucchini Tomatoes
 

Classic Ratatouille

{ serves 6 }

½ cup olive oil


1 medium eggplant, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 medium zucchini, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced

2 large onions, diced                                                                                                                 

5 to 6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

¼ cup white wine

4 to 5 fresh or canned tomatoes, diced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig marjoram

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence    

6 to 10 Niçoise olives (optional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 18, 2014

A RED GINGER FAVORITE: LOBSTER PAD THAI

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

LOBSTER PAD THAI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2014

SUMMER BREWS ON A CULINARY DISCOVERY TOUR IN OSLO

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

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

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

Beer Academy

Commercial and Artisanal beer

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

Aker River

Mathallen Food Hall

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

Oltorget at Mathallen-Kim and Bjerte

Oltorget Beer List Porter beer

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

Smallhans meal

June 13, 2014

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

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

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

Ballymaloe Cookery School

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

IMG_3743 IMG_3746


IMG_3734IMG_3826 2


IMG_3770 IMG_3787

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

IMG_3845 IMG_3832 2


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

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

June 10, 2014

REGATTA REFURBISHMENT COMPLETE – GUESTS EXPERIENCE THE OLIFE IN ALASKA

By Kunal S. Kamlani, President

Regatta Alaska

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

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

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

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

 

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

June 4, 2014

TOP UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SOUTH AMERICA

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

May 27, 2014

CULINARY ADVENTURES WITH CHEF KELLY IN ISTANBUL

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

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

Spice Market

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

Market-Saffron

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

Market-Cheese

Market-Meats 2

Market-Fish

Market-Fish 2

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

NAR Table

NAR Food

NAR Food 2

NAR Food 3

 

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

Candy Maker

Candy Maker 2

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

May 22, 2014

ASIA’S TOP UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES

From feats of humankind to wonders of nature, a voyage with Oceania Cruises offers you the opportunity to see some of the most iconic and impressive sights in the world. Below are some of our favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can experience on our upcoming Asian cruises.

China-beijingThe Great Wall (Beijing): Astounding in its scope, the Great Wall of China is over 12,000 miles long and represents the largest military structure in the world. A stunning feat of human ingenuity over 1,400 years in the making, the wall formed a remarkable defense system against invasions from the north and today offers astonishing views of the surrounding landscape.

Classical Gardens of Suzhou (Shanghai): A tranquil escape from the bustling urban life of Shanghai, the beautiful Gardens of Suzhou date back to the sixth century BC.  Masterpieces of ancient Chinese art, these nine gardens recreate entire natural landscapes in miniature, harmonizing the aesthetics of nature with cultural influences from the urban environment.  

Taj-MahalTaj Mahal (Mumbai): A monument of love built by the Mughal emperor in memory of his favorite wife, the glistening white marble Taj Mahal is a stunning masterpiece of Muslim art of truly massive proportions. Construction began in 1632 and took 22 years to complete, using over 1,000 elephants to transport building materials sourced from all over India and Asia.

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto): A collection of 17 magnificent sites, including temples, shrines and castles, these celebrated monuments embody the fascinating evolution of Japanese wooden architecture and Japanese landscaping over nearly two millennia.

Ha Long Bay (Hanoi): An unforgettable cruise amidst the 1,600 islands and islets in Ha Long Bay reveals a spectacular seascape of scenic limestone pillars, home to rare and endemic floral and fauna species. According to legend, a family of dragons created this spectacle by spitting out jewels that turned into the islands dotting the bay, so as to protect against seafaring invaders.

Ha-long-bay1

 

May 19, 2014

THE CHARMS OF COPENHAGEN

My very first voyage with Oceania Cruises was a journey through Scandinavia and the Baltic. I had never visited this region of the world before and wasn't sure what to expect. Today, eight years later, the fascinating destinations found along the Baltic Sea remain some of my favorites.

Our cruise began in Copenhagen, a fantastic city that is quintessentially Scandinavian and thus offers a perfect welcome to the region. Colorful 17th century homes line meandering canals; elegant parks embrace grand palaces; and a low skyline is broken only by the soaring spires of churches and castles. Copenhagen is also the perfect place to relax and refresh after a transatlantic flight to Europe, because this city demands nothing more than a leisurely stroll to enjoy its many charms.

Cruise 029

DSC00418 - Version 2

Amble along the colorful Nyhavn waterfront and stop for some refreshment in one of the many inviting cafés. Or meander along lovely Langelinie Promenade to see the iconic Little Mermaid statue – with a view of your ship as a backdrop! There are also any number of parks and gardens and several impressive royal palaces to explore within a mile or two of the cruise pier, including Amalienborg Palace, Rosenborg Palace and Christianborg Palace. A relaxing canal cruise is another a great way to take in the sights of this scenic city.

DSC00404

DSC00415 - Version 2

If you haven’t yet explored this region of the world, I encourage you to add it to your bucket list. And if you’ve visited before, I'm guessing you’re like me and eager to return. Meet us in Copenhagen this summer and explore the many charms of Scandinavia with Oceania Cruises!

 

 

May 16, 2014

NAUTICA EMERGES WITH MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR RENOVATIONS AND ENHANCED BULGARI AMENITIES

Main-loungeOceania Cruises continues a massive $50 million refurbishment of its fleet as Nautica emerges from dry dock today. We shared some of the new enhancements when Insignia rejoined the fleet last week, but to recap, some of the highlights include elegant new decor in suites and staterooms, luxurious new furnishings in lounges, and beautiful new mosaics in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®. Several popular features from Marina and Riviera are also being added to the other ships in the fleet, such as Baristas coffee bar, putting greens on the upper deck, and the specialty grill in Terrace Café offering cooked-to-order steaks, chops and lobster tails. Regatta will soon undergo a bow-to-stern renovation as well.

As the ships emerge fresh from their massive makeovers, guests will find some luxurious new amenities to go along with their newly appointed accommodations. The onboard selection of exclusive Bulgari amenities is being expanded and will be offered in all suites and staterooms. The expanded Bulgari program will also be featured on Marina and Riviera beginning in August.

BULGARI FINAL IMAGEBest known for its designer watches, jewelry and fragrances, Bulgari partnered with several luxury hotels to create a line of lavish bath products made with essential plant oils and silk proteins. While it has long been an amenity featured in Oceania Cruises suites and Concierge Level staterooms, Bulgari will now be available in all suites and staterooms on board all ships.

Staterooms will feature “The Blanc” amenities with a white tea scent, including shampoo, lotions, hand soaps and more. Guests in Penthouse suites and Concierge Level staterooms will now enjoy eau de cologne and aftershave balm in addition to the other products, all with “The Vert” fragrance of green tea. Guests in Owner’s, Vista and Oceania suites will choose from a new selection of three different scents and will receive a Bulgari gift set as well.

Elegance and comfort have always been hallmarks of the Oceania Cruises experience. With the multimillion-dollar renovations on Insignia, Nautica and Regatta as well as the expanded Bulgari amenities offered fleetwide, guests will feel even more pampered than ever before.

May 8, 2014

INSIGNIA RETURNS TO THE FLEET WITH A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER

Pool Deck(New)
An exciting and emotional day for the entire Oceania Cruises family, today we welcome our beloved Insignia back to the fleet. We are especially excited because her return from a two-year charter marks Oceania Cruises’ first season with a five-ship fleet. But that isn’t the only reason Insignia is generating such excitement. She arrived in Barcelona today with even more style, grace and elegance than ever before, fresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover.

With $50 million in renovations distributed among the three sister ships, Insignia is the first to undergo the most massive refurbishment in Oceania Cruises history. Four weeks from now, Regatta and Nautica will also have completed their bow-to-stern transformation.

Upon Insignia’s arrival in Barcelona this morning, we received a few photos that capture the stunning renovations, and we are thrilled to be sharing them here. You can see Insignia still possesses the same elegance and charm but now glows with a new polish and shine, courtesy of luxurious new fabrics and furnishings, as well as many new amenities.

PenthouseSuite(New)
Penthouse Suite

All of the suites and staterooms have been appointed with stylish new furnishings, and a new color palette in soothing shades of the sea, sun and sky completely transforms the Penthouse Suites. The Owner’s and Vista Suites are outfitted with lavish new oversized showers that are as big as an entire bathroom at home!

Public spaces also embody the new look. The expansive windows of Horizons lounge continue to offer spectacular sunsets, while the interior now features shades of sea blues, cocoa brown and mint, freshly complementing the view. And be sure to check out the new digs of Martinis and enjoy – what else? – a signature Big O Martini. For those who thought the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® on board couldn’t possibly be any more serene, don't miss the beautiful new mosaics that enhance the sense of tranquility even further.

Horizons(New)
Horizons

Rich new decor isn’t the only renovation on Insignia. Innovative features unveiled with the launch of our newest ships, Marina and Riviera, generated unprecedented excitement, so Oceania Cruises has taken this opportunity to add several of these features to Insignia, with Nautica and Regatta soon to follow. You can now enjoy an illy® cappuccino in Baristas on any ship in the fleet, and with the new specialty grill in Terrace Café, you can savor succulent surf and turf or grilled-to-order chops any night of the week. You can also take in fantastic views from the upper decks as you play nine holes of miniature golf, a feature found on no other ships in this class.

Baristas(New)
Baristas

Perhaps most exciting of all, the return of Insignia means that you can explore more of your world than ever before. Oceania Cruises wholeheartedly embraced this opportunity by debuting two never-before-offered 180-day World Voyages, which Insignia will sail beginning in January 2015 and again in July 2015. These amazing journeys are sure to inspire your inner artist, which is why the Artist Loft, another popular feature on Marina and Riviera, has been added to Insignia exclusively for these special voyages. Express your creativity with the world as your muse and artists-in-residence as your guide.

For those of you who set sail from Barcelona this afternoon on board the newly renovated Insignia, we’d love to hear your impressions in the comments here on the blog. Welcome home, Insignia, and bon voyage!

May 5, 2014

SIGNATURE SAILINGS: YOUR WORLD AND BEYOND

As if visiting the world’s most fascinating destinations weren’t enticing enough, Oceania Cruises also offers several Signature Sailings with guest celebrities and special events to enhance your remarkable vacation.

In a recent blog, I wrote about the Viking Passage Signature Sailing, featuring hall of fame broadcaster Verne Lundquist. But he won’t be the only special guest on board this transoceanic voyage. Barbara Seagram, an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor, will be on board to conduct classes and tournaments.

If bridge is your passion, there are eight other opportunities to see the world and improve your bridge game with American Contract Bridge League instructors on board between May and December. 

Jaques PepinWorld-renowned master chef Jacques Pépin, who is the executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, will be on board the Explore the Isles sailing, which departs July 23 and sails roundtrip from London. Guests will enjoy special signature menus, engaging lectures, culinary demonstrations and much more.

Departing June 10, Historic Holy Lands will be an especially noteworthy Signature Sailing as it celebrates the return of Insignia to the Oceania Cruises INSIGNIA_008fleet. Founding Chairman Joe Watters will host this gala voyage aboard the newly refurbished Insignia with his wife, Virginia, who is Insignia’s godmother. Guests will be treated to a number of exclusive events and festivities, including a momentous rechristening ceremony in Istanbul.

 

OceaniaClubCrestLargeAlways a special occasion for Oceania Cruises’ valued past guests, the 11th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise promises a memorable Signature Sailing when Riviera departs on the Gems of Antiquity voyage on July 29. Reunion cruises honor our cherished Oceania Club members, and this year’s cruise will feature a private cocktail reception hosted by the Captain as well as exclusive shore excursions in Istanbul, Santorini and Kusadasi, among other celebratory events.

From Europe to Africa and South America to the South Pacific, don’t miss your opportunity to explore your world and beyond on one of Oceania Cruises' special Signature Sailings.

May 2, 2014

CHEF KELLY LAUNCHES NEW CULINARY DISCOVERY TOUR IN RAVELLO

Perched high above the Amalfi Coast, Ravello is a festive and enchanting village that I have been visiting for decades. I’ve been eager to share this town’s charms with Oceania Cruises’ guests for some time, so I am very excited to be launching the new Culinary Discovery Tour: Ravello Lunch & Amalfi Chocolate Demo

As with all of our Culinary Discovery Tours, I seek out markets, restaurants and culinary venues that capture the essence of the people and uniqueness of the cuisine of each destination. Last year, with the help of my friends Margarita and Salvatore, I set out to design an authentic Ravello experience Ravello Duomo
for our guests. This brother and sister team is so excited to share their love of Ravello. Margarita runs a ceramics shop with her father. Cosmolena, whom we all affectionately call “Papa,” is a master painter whose ceramic artwork has been exported all over the world, including my home in Florida. Margarita’s brother, Salvatore, operates a restaurant that serves fresh, local Mediterranean seafood as well as sumptuous pastas and sinful desserts. You can bet that I tried as many dishes as possible before settling on the menu for this Culinary Discovery Tour!

Riviera’s recent stop in Amalfi marked the first time I led guests on this new tour. After a brief but beautiful drive up to Ravello from the port, we had some free time to explore the small piazza or simply sit in the shadow of the Duomo and people watch over a cup of coffee. 

Then we gathered for a short walk to our luncheon spot, where Salvatore greeted us with a glass of chilled limoncello. Next door at the ceramics shop, Ceramiche Cosmolena, there was a bowl of Amalfi lemons with a “Welcome Chef Kelly” sign (made by Papa), and guests were invited to select one of the famous lemons and take home a bit of Ravello. Papa told me he how pleased he was with the success of his children’s businesses and that, even though he is now retired, he comes to the shop and restaurant every day. He is such a dear man, and I am thrilled that Margarita is carrying on the tradition of beautiful ceramics and warm hospitality.

Salvatore Greets

Lemons CK and Papa

Melon slices

We then took our seats for lunch overlooking the Amalfi Coast, starting with fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced ham and freshly cut melon, sliced minutes before serving. The wine was flowing and the conversation was lively and relaxed.

Because this tour offers an insider’s look at an Italian family restaurant, guests were invited to watch the chefs as they prepared and plated the dishes.  Guests learned some of the secrets behind the next course, a delicious pasta in an exquisite shrimp sauce, served with a big smile by Salvatore. Next was a local branzino, or sea bass, in a light broth with local cherry tomatoes and a side salad of crisp greens. The combination of the fish and the greens was unforgettable! 

 

 

Chefs 2

Chefs

Salvatore with Food

Branzino
After a dessert of lemon tiramisu and a strong espresso, we said our goodbyes and headed down the winding road back to Amalfi. (Thank goodness for our local bus driver!)

CK and Salvatore

In Amalfi we toured another multigenerational business – Pasticceria Pansa – where we tasted candied lemon peels from the family garden, chocolates with hazelnuts, and a lemon sorbet. It was a marvelous day filled with delicious treats and the chance to learn about traditions passed down for generations in local family-owned businesses.

Pasticceria Pansa 1

Pasticceria Pansa 2 Pasticceria Pansa 3
 

April 28, 2014

CULINARY DISCOVERIES IN NICE AND ÈZE

I cannot imagine a more glorious reception than the one we had in Monte Carlo. Everyone on board Riviera awoke to a beautiful spring morning, and I opened my drapes to a blue sky that took my breath away. Soon we were all happily preparing for the day’s adventures in another magical port of call.

Several guests joined me for a Culinary Discovery Tour to two of my favorite destinations, Nice and Èze. We started the morning in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, using my trusty map as a guide to review the various influences on the cuisine of Nice. We discussed the ancient spice trade that brought flavors from lands as distant as Asia and Africa, and we also looked at culinary trends from the regions of Savoy and northern France that migrated into Provence, all influencing the cuisine of Nice in subtle yet distinctive ways.

Traveling to the market in Nice, we discovered the usual eye-popping rainbow of colors, made even more spectacular by the fresh flowers available this time of year. Lilacs were in bloom and paired with white roses in elegant bouquets, and my personal favorite, peonies, were overflowing in all shades of pink, including a tangerine color I had never seen before.

Nice Flowers

Nice Lilacs Nice Peonies

After stopping to smell the flowers, we were on to the produce, where we found an abundance of asparagus, peas, fava beans and artichokes. We also shopped for olive oils before making a requisite stop at my favorite chocolate shop, Maison Auer, to see the last of their exquisite Easter eggs. 

Nice Market Guest

Nice Market guests

Nice Aspargus

Nice Veggies Nice Chocolate

We then savored a bite of peppery socca, the Nice specialty made with chickpea flour and olive oil, fried like a pancake and served in paper cones with lots of salt and pepper. We were disappointed to learn that our favorite socca vendor had retired, but happy to discover that her replacement was making a creamy socca that was equally delicious.

After a refreshing snack, we headed to Èze, a medieval town perched at the top of a mountain overlooking the Côte d’Azur. This is our third year offering a Culinary Discovery Tour to Èze in which we visit the grand Château Eza. Today the chef of Château Eza prepared seasonal favorites: a salad of baby lettuces atop a mousse of garden greens, a cream of asparagus soup, and an entrée of sea bass with braised fennel and artichoke purée. The dessert was a mille-feuille of chocolate mousse with a hint of citrus. As always, it was an impeccable meal served with local wines and enhanced by unparalleled views. Everyone always loves coming here, and I love sharing this unforgettable experience with our foodie guests.

Eze 3

Eze 2

CE Salad CE Soup CE Sea Bass

CE Dessert CE View

We returned to port with time to spare, so we all headed in different directions to explore Monte Carlo. I stopped by the gardens of Princess Margaret, where I called my mom and relived a few memories from our 2008 trip on Insignia to celebrate her 80th birthday. Oceania Cruises has been such an important part of so many people's lives and travel memories, and my family is no exception. As I strolled through the gardens, I saw many familiar flowers of spring and one that I had never seen, the black petunia, majestic and sensuous! I love discovering new things when I travel!

PM Garden

PM Garden 2 PM Black Petunia

What an amazing day of culinary discoveries in Nice and Èze, topped off by a lovely jaunt through Monte Carlo! Next we head to the Pitti winery and the market in Livorno for a day of pizza, focaccia and biscotti in the Tuscan countryside. It doesn't get any better than this!

April 25, 2014

SPRINGTIME IN PROVENCE WITH CHEF KELLY

It's spring in Provence! And what better way to kick off Riviera's 2014 season in the Mediterranean than a Culinary Discovery Tour in Marseille.

We began in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board, gathered around my map of the Mediterranean for a review of the day’s itinerary and a discussion of the cuisines of France. Several guests were new to Oceania Cruises and the culinary center, so it was a thrill to introduce them to the culinary culture that is part of Oceania Cruises’ DNA.

CKMap

Eager to experience Provence firsthand, we went ashore for a stroll through the market of Sanary-sur-Mer, a quaint village where the fish is unbelievably fresh and the seasonal produce is of the highest quality imaginable. On this beautiful spring day, we found baby artichokes, white asparagus, green fava beans and piquant radishes. 

Photo2

Asparagus

Beans Artichokes

Baby Artichokes

Radish

MiravalWe also came across a shop that was carrying the new Miraval Rosé from the historic Provençal winery that was resurrected by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The wine has received rave reviews, so I snagged two bottles to try this summer. It will be the perfect complement to a Niçoise salad and an afternoon spent relaxing by the swimming pool. 

MacaroonsAfter shopping for herbes de Provence and other local treasures, I bought some macaroons bursting with coconut flavor to share with guests during our bus ride to the Domaine de Souviou winery. It was the perfect sweet treat!

When we arrived at the winery, we stretched our legs a bit on a lovely tour of the groves of thousand-year-old olive trees. Then we were treated to a luncheon prepared by our friend and host, Chef Gui Gedda, who is known as the godfather of Provençal cuisine. Chef Gedda serves something different every time we visit, and today we were treated to market-fresh vegetable soup with chickpeas and fresh marjoram, as well as the classic Provençal dish of tomate farcie, a slow-roasted, veal-stuffed tomato. We also enjoyed a delicious Cannes-style poule au pot, a chicken mousse wrapped in chicken thigh and served over rice with a light cream sauce. We ended the meal with crème au pain d’épices, a magical dessert resembling bread pudding that perfectly complimented the day, the wine and the company.

Olive Grove

Gui

Tomate Farcie

Poule au Pot Creme au Pain

After saying goodbye to our friends at Domaine de Souviou, we returned to the ship for a cooking lesson on preparing fish in the Provence style. Guests made a delightful shrimp Provençal as well as a Provençal version of the Italian acqua pazza, a dish of seared fish with tomatoes, Niçoise olives and wine.

BACC 1

BACC 4

BACC 2

BACC 3 BACC 5

All in all, it was a spectacular day, and this season of Culinary Discovery ToursTM promises many more to come. Next stop is Monte Carlo and a meal at Château Eza. Yum!

April 24, 2014

BUDDHAS AND BARGES IN BANGKOK

For many people, the changing of the seasons is heralded by the chill in the air or the blooms on the trees. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I track the seasons by following our ships’ itineraries. This month Nautica sailed from Bangkok en route to the shores of the Mediterranean, a sure sign that spring has sprung. As Nautica bids a fond farewell to Asia for the season, I wanted to share some of my highlights of the bustling city of Bangkok.

Temple on river-BangkokIf Bangkok is in your future travel plans, the city’s canals offer a wonderful way to see the sights, and the best way to navigate is with our Canals & Royal Barges shore excursion. Traditionally Thailand’s cities were protected by moats, and it was for this reason that the first klongs, or canals, were built around the Grand Palace in the late 18th century. As more were constructed, the klongs became arteries along which trade and travel unfolded. In the 20th century, modernization shifted traffic to paved roads, but a few thriving canal systems remain, where visitors can get a taste of what life was once like on the waterways.

On the Canals & Royal Barges excursion, you will be treated to a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River and through the complex network of klongs in the Thonburi district, where you’ll see floating grocery stores, speeding water taxis, teakwood houses built on stilts, and hidden temples. 

Imperial Barge Museum-BangkokKlongs were the site of magnificent royal processions filled with elaborately decorated barges designed for the royal family.  Today the royal fleet comprises a much more modest fleet, but eight of these ornate vessels can be viewed at the Royal Barges Museum across the river from the Grand Palace.

Along the Chao Phraya River across from the Grand Palace is one of the most impressive and distinct temples in Bangkok, Wat Arun. While it is believed that a Buddhist temple sat on this site at least as far back as the mid-17th century, the current structure was built in the early 19th century. 

The temple enshrined the Emerald Buddha and was part of the royal palace grounds until King Rama I moved the palace across the river, taking the treasured Buddha statue with him. Even without the statue, the temple was still revered, and later kings restored and enhanced the compound, including its most prominent feature, the Khmer-style tower that soars more than 200 feet in the air. Although the temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, who is the personification of the rising sun, you’ll discover that some of the most spectacular views of this temple will come when the sun sets.

Wat Arun Temple-2

Wat Arun Temple-3 Wat Arun Temple-4 Wat Arun Temple-Bangkok

Don’t miss your opportunity to watch the sun set on this shimmering city during an overnight stay in Bangkok on an Oceania Cruises voyage in 2015:

Photos by Peter Pretty

April 23, 2014

COOKING UP NEW CLASSES AND TOURS IN THE BON APPETIT CULINARY CENTER

The excitement continues on board Marina and Riviera as we introduce a new season of Bon Appétit Culinary Center classes and Culinary Discovery ToursTM. We’re launching a total of 21 new classes in the culinary center this year, and four of those will debut during this season in Europe. We're also IMG_6518 - Version 2unveiling two brand new Culinary Discovery Tours this summer, and we’ve added some wonderful new experiences to favorite tours of years past. All in all, it promises to be the most fun season yet!

Our new classes this season feature a diverse array of regional cuisines from every corner of the European continent. Our classes on Greek cuisine have always been some of my favorites, and the new Healthy Greek class is no exception. In this class you can learn flavorful recipes inspired by the famously healthy dietary lifestyle of Crete, and you’ll also learn to make the prized tomato fritters from Selene Restaurant on Santorini. The Modern Nordic class features treats such as salted caramel ice cream and other fresh, inventive dishes reflecting the latest trends of edgy Nordic restaurants such as Noma and Geranium. If, like me, you find Turkish culture intriguing, you can discover the secrets of the country’s cuisine in our new Turkish Arabesque class. Focusing on the renowned cuisine of Provence, Beyond Ratatouille offers the chance to make the favorite dishes of our own Jacques Pépin as well as Gui Gedda, considered the godfather of Provençal cuisine.

I'm especially excited about the launch of our brand new Culinary Discovery Tours in Cork and Palma de Mallorca. The beauty of the Ballymaloe country estate in Cork is reason enough to visit, but when you add in a private tour of the gardens and a cooking demonstration and tasting at the world-renowned cooking school located there, it becomes an experience not to be missed. Palma de Mallorca is also sure to be a hit, as we’ll shop the local market, sample different varieties of olive oil and dine at El Faro, a restaurant perched above the harbor where the view is only rivaled by the fabulous Mediterranean menu. We’ve also enhanced our Culinary Discovery Tours in Amalfi and Sicily with new restaurants such as the renowned Osteria Nero d’Avola in Taormina.

Photo1-2Of course, we'll continue offering Culinary Discovery Tours in the many destinations that have become guest favorites, as each season promises new trends and dishes to discover in the ever-evolving regional culinary scenes. This week we enjoyed fascinating tours in both Madeira and Morocco. On the island of Madeira, we explored the town of Funchal, always a treasure trove of passion fruit, exotic orchids and fresh fish. We tasted Madeira wines at Blandy’s, shopped the local market, and enjoyed an authentic Madeiran lunch.  

Photo1-1

 

In Tangier, Morocco, we strolled through the medina and the fish market, stopping to select some preserved doqq lemons and midway olives from one of our favorite vendors. We shared a luncheon of chicken tagine, pastilla, and couscous with a fantastic onion and beef confit, topped off with an exotic tea-pouring ceremony.

This is only the beginning of a great new season of exploring food and wine while making new friends both on the ship and amongst those who host us so generously in their wineries, restaurants and markets ashore. I hope you'll join us for the fun!

April 18, 2014

LEARN FAVORITE CANYON RANCH RECIPES IN THE BON APPÉTIT CULINARY CENTER

L1000002Riviera has set sail across the Atlantic, destined for a fabulous summer in Europe, and I’m on board to launch another exciting season of classes in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. It is hard to believe I am already entering my fourth year as executive chef of the culinary center, and I can report that I am still loving every minute – especially when we introduce new classes and Culinary Discovery ToursTM. L1000029

The Canyon Ranch SpaClub® has long been a popular retreat on the ships of Oceania Cruises, and our guests rave about the Canyon Ranch cuisine featured in the onboard restaurants. Over the past year I have worked with a fellow graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Scott Uehlein, to develop cooking classes inspired by Canyon Ranch, the undisputed leader in spa cuisine. As the corporate chef for Canyon Ranch, Chef Uehlein reinvents classics such as mac and cheese or Caesar salad in a healthier, yet satisfying and flavorful, way.

I spent a week at the Canyon Ranch resort in Tucson (I know, tough life I lead…), where Chef Uehlein and I selected a handful of recipes most requested by their guests over the past three decades. Together we designed our newest class for the Bon Appétit Culinary Centers on board Marina and Riviera: Most Requested from Canyon Ranch.

L1000004
The class was a huge hit with our guests on board this Riviera sailing. We were delighted to have Vera, the fitness and nutrition director for Riviera’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub, welcome our guests to the class and share a bit about the Canyon Ranch philosophy. Then we dove right into the recipes.

L1000010 L1000012
L1000001

L1000020We began with a couple salad dressings, one a simple balsamic dressing and the other using citrus and honey to liven it up. Then we learned one of my favorite breakfast recipes, the alpine muesli, before moving on to a salmon teriyaki with a spicy curried cauliflower.

Everyone in the class had a lot of fun, learned new healthy cooking techniques, and took home a handout with over a dozen Canyon Ranch recipes. Below I’ve shared one of the class favorites, and if you want to learn more secrets to healthy and delicious Canyon Ranch cuisine, come along on Marina’s Viking Passage sailing, departing May 22, and join us for a class in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center!

 

L1000017APPLE CRANBERRY SALMON SALAD

Makes 4 servings, each containing approximately: 325 calories, 38 gm. carbohydrate, 11 gm. fat, 54 mg. cholesterol, 20 gm. protein, 223 mg. sodium and 6 gm. fiber.

 

½ cup Mongolian BBQ Sauce (see recipe)

4 (4-ounce) salmon fillets

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 pound Gala apples

½ pound Granny Smith apples

½ cup chopped fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

 

 

In a shallow glass baking dish, combine BBQ sauce and salmon and marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Preheat grill or broiler. Grill or broil salmon fillets 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until fish is cooked through. Thinly slice apples using a mandoline or a knife. Add apples to lemon honey dressing and toss together to coat. Toss cranberries and tarragon with the apple mixture. Break apart salmon fillets into bite-sized pieces. Toss salmon with apple cranberry salad. Evenly divide between 4 plates and serve.

MONGOLIAN BBQ SAUCE

½ cup low-sodium wheat-free tamari sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ cup sake

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup ketchup

Pinch dried coriander leaves

Pinch dry ginger

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes

¼ cup minced leeks

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari sauce

In a large saucepan, combine first tamari, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sake, and first water and bring to a boil. Add ketchup, coriander leaves, dry ginger, and red chili flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine leeks, garlic, fresh ginger, second water, and second tamari sauce. Add to cooked mixture and stir until combined. Store in refrigerator.