16 posts categorized " Toscana "

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.

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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

December 20, 2013

AN EVENING OF AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE IN TOSCANA

DSC04822 - Version 2As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I share this post today to right an egregious wrong. In looking through past posts, I discovered that somehow I have never devoted a blog to Toscana. Considering it is not only my favorite restaurant on the ships but also one of my favorite restaurants period, I can’t believe I’ve neglected Toscana in this way.

Perhaps I’ve been reluctant to share my passion for Toscana because I’ve been teased about how much I love this restaurant. This is probably because each time I join friends for dinner here, my first question is, “How many courses is everyone having?” At my birthday dinner in Toscana, one of my friends answered, “Two.” I very nearly invited her to leave the party.

Toscana03Toscana serves authentic Italian recipes prepared with all the love and care of a Tuscan grandmother. And in some cases the recipes actually came from a Tuscan grandmother. Many dishes were created by Oceania Cruises’ talented team of international chefs, and others are generations-old family recipes shared by Italian crew members.

These wonderful recipes beg to be accompanied by a fabulous wine, so as with all evenings in Toscana, my most recent visit began with perusing the list of exclusive Italian wines. While the obvious choice would be a Chianti, my party selected a Famiglia Anselma Barolo from the Piedmont region, northwest of Tuscany. Typically bold and full bodied, Barolo is one of Italy’s greatest wines, and the Anselma family certainly knows Barolo because that is all that they make.

Next it was time to select that essential ingredient in any Italian meal, olive oil. We were presented a menu detailing the range of flavors and intensities of several extra virgin and infused olive oils. With olive oil this good, I prefer to savor the pure characteristics and aromas of the oil, but for those who like to add balsamic vinegar to their olive oil, an equally high-quality selection of balsamic vinegars is also featured. Our chosen olive oils were poured for us, and there was a diverse assortment of fresh homemade breads presented to dip in the oil.

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Then it was time to get down to business. I almost always begin with the Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese, as I simply can’t resist fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil. The Caprese salad is one of the best ways to enjoy these Italian staples – fresh, full of flavor and complemented by a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The more adventurous will want the try the Carpaccio di Polpo. This octopus carpaccio served with a warm potato salad and champagne vinaigrette is not only delicious but also one of the prettiest dishes on the menu.

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On this particular evening, I decided to try a new antipasto, the Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata, which showcases one of the most treasured of Tuscan delicacies, the truffle. This timbale is made with artichokes and Parmesan cheese, served with a black truffle sauce and drizzled with arugula-infused olive oil. The flavors were exquisite, both rich and perfectly balanced.

In Tuscany, pasta is not typically served as an entrée but rather as an earlier course in the meal. So in Toscana, you can enjoy a small pasta dish as a first course, or “il primo,” and still try one of the delectable beef, lamb or fish dishes as an entrée. The chefs seem to have anticipated my difficulty in deciding between all the wonderful pastas, as they kindly created the Trio Toscana that allows you to sample two delicious pastas and a risotto in one dish. The trio includes a perfectly prepared lobster risotto, a classic fettuccine carbonara, and a spinach and ricotta tortelloni laced with a delicate sage butter. If you prefer a tomato-based sauce, try the Linguine Cioppino with seafood in a light pinot grigio and cherry tomato sauce.

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Toscana10The Tuscans are fond of their grilled meats, so on this visit I selected the Filetto di Manzo alla Fiorentina as my entrée. The filet mignon is served with a Gorgonzola crust, sautéed garlic spinach, grilled polenta and a Brunello sauce. I typically order steak when I dine at Polo Grill, but now I will definitely consider a steak entrée at Toscana as well. Each bite melted in my mouth.

The veal dishes are also very popular, such as the bone-in veal chop in wild porcini mushroom sauce. And as if there aren’t enough options already, Toscana also features dishes from neighboring regions of Italy, such as the Osso Buco alla Milanese and Lasagna al Forno alla Bolognese. If you somehow manage to save room for dessert, Toscana has an excellent tiramisu.

 

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Needless to say, I am completely satiated when I finish a meal in Toscana, and yet each time I leave I’m already looking forward to my next visit. If you love Toscana as much as I do, feel free to share your favorite dishes in the comments here on the blog!

September 16, 2013

10TH-ANNIVERSARY SAILING CONCLUDES A YEAR OF CELEBRATION

Nautica arrived in Athens today, marking the end of Oceania Cruises’ final 10th-anniversary sailing of the year. Hosted by Founding Chairman Joe Watters and his wife, Virginia, the cruise concluded with all the fanfare merited by this historic milestone.

Oceania Club Reception
On the evening of September 13, the Captain’s cocktail reception in Nautica Lounge was hosted by Captain Igor Bencina, Founding Chairman Watters, General Manager Carlo Gunetti, Oceania Club Ambassador Sharon Miceli and Cruise Director Nolan Dean (pictured above). Mr. Watters and the senior officers warmly welcomed each guest to the special event.

Greeting Guests Greeting Guests-2
At the celebratory reception, Mr. Watters expressed his gratitude for the patronage of all of Oceania Cruises’ guests over the past decade and for their loyalty in the years to come. He also recognized the individual officers and crew who have been with Oceania Cruises for its entire 10-year history, noting that these dedicated members of the Oceania Cruises family are certainly one of the reasons that guests continue to sail with us time and time again. 

10-Year Team Members
That evening Mr. and Mrs. Watters hosted several of Oceania Cruises’ most loyal guests for an exquisite dinner in Toscana, which of course included a celebratory toast. 

Toscana
Gala Tea with Chef

The celebration continued on September 14 at the Gala Teatime in Nautica Lounge. Executive Sous Chef Mario Santoro and the Nautica culinary team presented a magnificent event that included not only the artisan teas, delicious pastries and finger sandwiches that are guest favorites during the traditional daily teatime, but also ice sculptures, fine champagne, caviar and other special treats. Mr. Watters greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk more with several of Oceania Cruises’ loyal guests. 

 

Mr. Watters and Guests enjoy Gala Tea Gala Tea with Guests
The year 2013 has been full of celebrations marking the landmark 10th anniversary of Oceania Cruises. As the final anniversary sailing concludes, Oceania Cruises’ founders, executives, officers, crew and guests continue to reflect on fond memories of the past decade at sea and look forward with great excitement to the next 10 years and beyond.

July 9, 2013

A MEMORABLE 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN TOSCANA

Toscana PhotoOn a sailing that has already created so many fond memories for me, last night was the most memorable yet. As Riviera set sail from Taormina, Sicily, I headed to Toscana with my wife, Daniela, to host some of our most loyal guests for a dinner in celebration of Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary. Through the windows of Toscana, we could see the beautiful sunset behind Mount Etna, a perfect backdrop for a very special evening.

Riviera’s string quartet played as our guests arrived. Daniela and I welcomed each guest, as did Captain Gunnar Romtveit and General Manager Thierry Tholon. We were also joined by several of the senior officers, each of whom hosted a table for the evening. Our guests were more than 50 of our most loyal Oceania Club members, from Bronze level through Platinum, and we were honored to be celebrating 10 years at sea with some of the guests who had made it all possible.

Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti prepared a six-course dinner befitting the exclusive event. The menu was printed for each guest as a keepsake to remember not only the exquisite meal but also the wonderful company we all enjoyed as we celebrated this special occasion together. It was such a pleasure to be able to talk with our guests in this intimate setting and to hear their delightful stories and fond memories of their voyages with Oceania Cruises. I was pleased to hear that, while the ships are beautiful and the cuisine exceeds their highest expectations, it is our officers, staff and crew Toscana Photo-2that truly differentiate the Oceania Cruises experience from any other. As one guest put it, “It’s like coming back to see family every time.”

We are so grateful to have these cherished guests as part of our Oceania Cruises family, and I offered a toast to their health and happiness. I was glad to have the opportunity to personally thank them for choosing to explore the world with us and for making it possible for us to expand our fleet and deliver even more dream vacation experiences. We raised our glasses to the wonderful journeys we’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years and to creating more treasured memories onboard Oceania Cruises in the years to come.

Everyone in Toscana last night said they are looking forward to the next decade with great excitement, and in fact, we made a commitment to each other that we would reunite the group and celebrate Oceania Cruises’ 20th anniversary together as well. In the meantime, we will always cherish our memories of this special evening, and I hope our paths cross again many times.

June 6, 2013

ICONS OF THE ETERNAL CITY

Today both Nautica and Riviera are in Civitavecchia – the gateway to Rome. Traveling just an hour or so inland takes you to the Eternal City and all of its legends and wonders. Western society is rife with images that give us a notion of the grandeur of Rome, but until you visit, it’s difficult to truly conceive the immensity of the city.

Amidst the classical architecture and ancient relics sprout the trappings of modern man, from high-end fashion boutiques to souvenir shops selling aprons that make you resemble a gladiator. This mélange draws criticism from some visitors, but I actually feel a relative sense of harmony in the city considering its vastness. I enjoy grabbing a gelato and then rounding the corner onto a 17th century piazza that transports me back in time – or a forum more than two thousand years old that takes me back much further.

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I recently returned to Rome as Blogger-at-Large, and because I had already seen many of the historic monuments, I had a simpler plan this time: espresso, pasta, vino, gelato. But despite my intent to focus on culinary culture, and despite the rain that assured me this was a wise decision, I found myself drawn back to the city’s landmarks for another look. It just didn’t seem right to go to Rome without strolling by the Colosseum and tossing a coin in Trevi Fountain. This trip confirmed that, no matter how many times I visit Rome, I will always be awed by its icons, learn more of its history and discover new wonders.

On this trip I joined the Oceania Cruises excursion Rome on Your Own, which was great for those who have visited before. It provided transportation from the ship to the city and back, with the added benefit of an informative guide along the way who shared historical facts, helpful tips and a well-marked city map.

We were dropped off at the Piazza del Popolo, a large, impressive square that was a great starting point because from here Via del Corso led right into the heart of the city. Several of Rome’s most famous monuments are within blocks of this main street.

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The fact that I wanted to visit some landmarks did not deter me from my original plan, and I began the day with a delicious cappuccino. Buoyed with espresso, I set off for Trevi Fountain, passing by the famed Spanish Steps during the first of several rain showers that day. Like the horses pulling the carriages, I donned my rain gear and forged ahead. The famed Trevi Fountain had to be my first stop so that I didn’t miss the chance to toss in a coin to ensure that I would return to Rome again.

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Trevi Fountaoin and LPF Spanish Steps

After tossing the requisite coin and taking a few minutes to gaze at the majestic fountain, I headed for the Pantheon. Once a temple to the Roman gods and now a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs, it is the best preserved ancient building in Rome. While hardly visible from the front of the Pantheon, its dome is one of the most impressive features. To this day it is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Its oculus is completely open, acting as the only source of natural light and also allowing in rain. It was remarkable to see the sunlight and showers falling from the heavens into the center of the church.

Pantheon panorama

Image23BE14EF-ECB1-4CC2-BD1A-2C764B1A7C20 Pantheon Outside

Pantheon Alter

Pantheon Inside

As I left the Pantheon, I was pleased to see it was time for lunch. On to the pasta and vino part of my plan! The Piazza della Rotunda in front of the Pantheon is surrounded by cafés, which one might assume are tourist traps because of their location. But while the prices may be a bit higher than a restaurant off the beaten path, the food I had there was delicious. And I was happy to pay a little extra for the view!

The Piazza della Rotunda 2

The Piazza della Rotunda 3

I’ve eaten twice at the café on the southwest corner of the square, and I confess I had the lasagna both times. If you like your lasagna with béchamel sauce, then the lasagna in Toscana onboard the ship can compete with just about anything shoreside. But while I love a good béchamel, I sometimes prefer to forgo the milk and butter in favor of a hearty tomato sauce in its purest form, and in that case, the best I’ve ever had was at the café on Piazza della Rotunda. If you’re in the mood for a white sauce, try the gnocchi with arugula and prosciutto, which is divine!

Lunch 2 Lunch

Having checked the pasta and vino off my list, I wandered for a bit and stumbled upon the lovely Piazza Navona with the Sant’Agnese in Agone church and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini, arguably Rome’s greatest achievement in the fountain genre.

Piazza Navona Sant'agnese in Agone church

Piazza Navona 2

I continued south again and arrived at a work that is modern architecture by Roman standards, the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. This monument has met with some controversy since its inauguration in 1911 because an area of Capitoline Hill was destroyed to create it.

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

The Cordonata, a grand staircase designed by Michelangelo, led to the Piazza del Campidoglio atop Capitoline Hill, the smallest but most famous of the seven hills of Rome and the origin of the English word, “capitol.” Once the site of Rome’s holiest temples, the hill fell into ruin in the Middle Ages. Michelangelo was asked to redesign this ancient square in the 16th century, including the Palazzo Senatorio, which is now the city hall and is flanked by the impressive Capitoline museums.

Piazza del Campidoglio

At the base of the hill, I could see the Roman Forum, once the economic, political and religious center of Rome and home to some of the most ancient and renowned excavations in the city. Just beyond the Forum stood the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in the world and the most recognized landmark in Rome. Coming from a country just a couple centuries old, I could hardly conceive of a structure that had been standing for a couple millennia, surviving both natural disasters and human plundering.

Forum Forum 2

Colosseum close

This iconic monument seemed an appropriate place to conclude my day and head back to meet the coach. I grabbed a gelato on the way and completed my culinary tour along with my historic one. I only hope that the legend of Trevi Fountain is indeed true, and that my coin will ensure that I return to this great city again!

March 10, 2013

NICK DESANTIS SHARES STORIES FROM THE OCEANIA CLUB REUNION CRUISE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Greetings from the 9th Oceania Club Reunion Cruise, sailing from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro on the lovely Regatta! As manager of the Oceania Club, I am always so pleased to see past guests onboard with whom I have sailed before, and many have become dear friends. I also love meeting other Oceania Club members for the first time and having the opportunity to thank them for their loyalty.

In short, everyone is having a wonderful time and it has only just begun! Though a lot of work went into the planning of the cruise, one thing my team cannot control is the weather, but this has not been a problem because the weather in Buenos Aires was better than we ever could have planned. Of course, there are a lot of things we can control, so the day I arrived, Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President of Sales Michael Hirsch and I met with the senior staff to go over the itinerary, make sure we were all on the same page and see if there were any final details that needed to be ironed out. We all want this voyage to be unforgettable!

I was happy to find that there are a few members of the Regatta team with whom I've had the pleasure of sailing on previous Reunion Cruises: Captain Jurica Brajcic, Oceania Club Ambassador Cary Arias, Cruise Director Leslie Jon and Restaurant Manager Vladimir Cavic. Everyone understands what an important and fantastic event this Reunion Cruise is, especially in the year of our 10th anniversary, a milestone we attribute to the unprecedented loyalty of Oceania Cruises’ guests.

On our second day in Buenos Aires, we hosted one of the first Reunion Cruise tours, Discover Historic Buenos Aries. It was a half-day tour and included a stop at the Plaza de Mayo, the site of the salmon-colored presidential palace known as Casa Rosada with its famed balcony where Eva Peron once addressed adoring crowds.

Across from Eva buliding Eva Peron-Presidental buliding

We had the chance to sip coffee at the oldest café in Argentina where notables from Jorge Luis Borges to Albert Einstein once gathered. Before heading back to the pier, we explored El Zanjón de Granados, believed to be the site of Buenos Aires’ first settlement.

El Zanjon entrance El Zanjon 2 El Zanjon

To kick off our first night at sea, we gathered for an exclusive dinner at Toscana with most of our 70 Oceania Club guests who have reached the Bronze level or above. I had the pleasure of hosting three couples, all of whom have traveled extensively throughout the world (even beyond the 30-plus countries I’ve visited, which I once thought was an impressive total!). These three couples will be staying onboard for several subsequent cruises. In fact, there are about 95 guests staying onboard Regatta until the ship arrives in Miami in April.

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Starting from the left: Mrs. Dunn (Bronze), Mr and Mrs. Hopkins (Silver), Nick DeSantis, Mr. and Mrs. Lindley (Bronze) and Mr. Dunn (Bronze)


It was a truly wonderful evening, followed by a beautiful sunrise that greeted us in Montevideo the next day. I can’t wait to share more of our exciting exploration of the east coast of South America.

Sunrise 2 Sunrise in Montevideo

February 5, 2013

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OCEANIA CRUISES’ FLEET CORPORATE CHEF FRANCK GARANGER

Photo 11Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that esteemed master chef Jacques Pépin is our executive culinary director and the inspiration behind our extraordinary cuisine. But even Chef Pépin knows that it takes more than one person to create a culinary program for a cruise line that can successfully rival the cuisine of even the best restaurants ashore. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of the other culinary team members responsible for creating the finest cuisine at sea.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger might modestly resist the label of “creative genius.” But after tasting the exquisite dishes he has conceived for Oceania Cruises’ ships, I can’t think of a more appropriate moniker.

While many cruise lines employ a single corporate chef, Oceania Cruises has an entire team of culinary directors and executive chefs committed to realizing its culinary vision. Thus Garanger is free to focus his creative genius – there, I said it – on designing recipes that uphold Oceania Cruises’ reputation for the finest cuisine at sea. 

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An example of the finest cuisine at sea: Tamarind-Braised Black Cod with Sweet Ginger Sauce and Vegetable Ragout

While Garanger was born in the Normandy region of France, his family moved to Angers in the Loire Valley when he was two years old. His father owned a bakery, and after being exposed to the culinary world at a very young age, Garanger began working with his father and learning the pastry trade at age 16. One year later he began studies in hospitality and hotel management. French universities are very specialized, and the training involved one week of classes alternating with two weeks of hands-on restaurant experience, at which time Garanger worked with a French master chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Angers.

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Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
After passing his first exams, Garanger worked at one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, followed by the equally renowned Hotel de Cap Eden Roc, a palace on the French Riviera in Antibes. He then returned to school for two years to complete his degrees and after exams, at the age of 24, began officially working as a chef.

His first position on a cruise ship was with Silversea Cruises in 1995. When he was asked to join Oceania Cruises in 2003, he did not hesitate to accept. “I liked the vision they had for the line,” Garanger says. “And I really liked the passion of all the people involved. They were so into food that, in everything we were creating, they were not only behind me but also tasting the food with me. When you have the CEO and the president coming onboard just to taste the food to see if we can put it on the menu, it applies a little pressure, but it is also very rewarding because you can really see how important the food is to the company.”

Much like the passionate commitment of the executives, many aspects of Garanger’s tenure with Oceania Cruises have been both challenging and rewarding. “Regatta was a challenge because we had to start from scratch, and we were working with a ship we didn't build, so we had to make adjustments. We built Marina ourselves, but it was also challenging because we opened eight different restaurants – each a completely different concept – and had 160 cooks onboard to manage. In both cases, there were very high expectations, and we had to deliver in a short period of time. Both debuts were a huge success, and so of course, we’re very happy.”

So what is the secret to continuing to deliver the finest cuisine at sea? For one thing, most members of the culinary team, such as Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Culinary Director Eric Barale and Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur, have been with Oceania Cruises since its very beginnings. And the line’s commitment to cuisine has ensured that the team is provided every tool they need to succeed.

“I’ve always been asked what I needed, and whatever I asked for, I got,” Garanger says. “Of course, then you have to make sure you deliver, and so far, I’ve succeeded. That’s why I’m still here!”

Each restaurant onboard provides its own unique challenges. Jacques is perhaps the most challenging because of the technical precision required to execute true, authentic French recipes using traditional, time-honored methods on a daily basis. Toscana is also technically challenging because of the à la minute preparation of all the fresh pasta and risotto.

Red Ginger is one of Garanger’s favorite concepts because it is truly “his baby.” Garanger traveled in Asia for two years and then spent time in both London and San Francisco researching ideas before developing the restaurant concept and recipes.

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One of Red Ginger’s signature dishes: Miso-Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf

While Jacques and Red Ginger are featured on Oceania Cruises’ newest ships, Marina and Riviera, guests will be excited to know that they can soon get a taste of these restaurants onboard Regatta and Nautica as well. These ships will soon feature an entrée from both Jacques and Red Ginger each night in the Grand Dining Room. The new features are just one small part of Garanger’s latest large scale project, the rollout of new menus for the Grand Dining Rooms on the entire fleet.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Garanger’s insights into the creative process, training and implementation involved in this extensive menu rollout. Check the blog again soon for more behind-the-scenes stories.

February 1, 2013

MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

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Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin
While most cruise lines employ a single corporate chef that oversees the creation, organization and implementation of menus, Oceania Cruises has an entire team at the helm of its culinary program. Of course, renowned master chef Jacques Pépin has been the inspiration for the program since he became executive culinary director when the line was founded 10 years ago. But consistently delivering the finest cuisine at sea requires a large group of dedicated chefs committed to this vision.

“No one person can be in charge of all the food and beverage for a cruise line and do it well,” says Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro. “It’s  creativity, it’s administration, it’s logistics and human resources; it’s sourcing and tracking and training and quality control. And then there’s bread and pastry. From a culinary point of view, that’s like another planet! How could one person do all that?”

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of meeting several members of the culinary team, including Semeraro, who led the team in one of its most ambitious projects to date: the launch of entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. Semeraro has been a key player in the creation of Oceania Cruises’ renowned cuisine since the line’s founding in 2003. In fact, most of the culinary team has been onboard since the company began with a handful of employees a decade ago, which accounts for the family atmosphere amongst the entire team and translates to a warm camaraderie amidst the crew and guests onboard the ships. It truly is a family affair, as several of the original recipes served in the Italian restaurants have come from Semeraro and his wife, Packy, and their mothers.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has certainly found his niche within the team. His sole responsibility is creating innovative new menus that keep Oceania Cruises at the forefront of culinary excellence. Meanwhile, Culinary Director Eric Barale handles the logistics of implementing Garanger’s creations, from purchasing fresh ingredients and acquiring new equipment to assembling the necessary staff and designing menus. Interestingly, Barale used to be Garanger’s teacher at culinary school, and when Garanger was invited to come onboard with Oceania Cruises when the line was founded in 2003, Barale was the first person he called to join him.

“Eric does all the work I don’t like to do,” Garanger says, chuckling. “I am the right brain and he is the left, so it makes a great partnership. When you don’t have to take care of all the logistics and you’re free to just create the recipes, it’s fantastic. It allows me to keep a clear head and to simply create. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day.”

Of course, the right brain and left brain wouldn’t function without a lot of neurons flashing in synchronicity. Several other team members help execute this culinary vision, not to mention the hundreds of chefs and sous chefs working onboard the ships. Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti were both heavily involved in the new menu rollout in the Grand Dining Room. Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin oversaw implementation on Riviera, while Senior Executive Chef Laurent Trias will oversee Marina, and Executive Chef Renald Macouin will oversee Regatta and Nautica

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Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
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Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti

 

If you saw yesterday’s blog, your mouth is probably still watering over the photos I shared that revealed the fruits of the team’s labors. There are so many delicious dishes on the new Grand Dining Room menus that I wanted to share a few more with you today. 

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Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Creamy Pesto and Crispy Focaccia Bread
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Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish Fillet with Saffron Mussel Sauce

 
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Herb-Crusted Cornish Hen alla Diavolo with Bacon and Shoestring Potatoes
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Dorado and Tuna Ceviche with Cilantro and Heirloom Tomatoes

In my next blog post, read my behind-the-scenes interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and learn where he gets his inspiration to create the finest cuisine at sea.

December 10, 2012

OCEANIA CRUISES WINS CRUISE CRITIC AWARDS FOR BEST CUISINE AND BEST SUITES

The 2012 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks were recently announced, and if you’ve ever been onboard an Oceania Cruises ship, you won’t be surprised to learn that Oceania Cruises was chosen for Best Cuisine and Best Suites.

Upon hearing this exciting news, I took a moment to go through the many photos I have taken over the years as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises and select a few of my favorites of the beautiful suites and incredible meals I’ve enjoyed during my adventures onboard the ships. If you’re wondering what inspired the Cruise Critic editors to select Oceania Cruises, here are just a few of the reasons why these awards are so richly deserved.

BEST CUISINE 

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The men behind the menus: Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger (pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large)

GRAND DINING ROOM

One of the sure signs that Oceania Cruises is perfect for foodies is that the Grand Dining Room is just as wonderful as the specialty restaurants. In fact, I’ve spoken with several guests who say it’s their favorite restaurant onboard. The menus change daily, but you will always find European-inspired continental cuisine as well as delicious Canyon Ranch SpaClub® dishes. Here are some photos of a few of my favorite dishes.

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Grilled Turbot with Zucchini and Tomato
GD SHrimp Asp Risotto
Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
 
GD Lobster
Lobster Thermidor 

TOSCANA

As exquisite as The Grand Dining Room is, I highly recommend pulling yourself away for a taste of Tuscan-inspired Italian cuisine at the wonderful Toscana. The simple but elegant ambiance elicits the romance of the Italian countryside, and quite a few of the recipes are inspired by mothers and grandmothers of Oceania Cruises culinary staff. Also, many of the sommeliers are from long lines of wine-producing families, further enhancing the Italian experience.

Italian food is comfort food for me, and Toscana is definitely one of my favorite restaurants – onboard or ashore. I’ve had the privilege of celebrating two birthdays in Toscana, and if I had my choice, I’d celebrate all of them here! Just look at some of the incredible dishes I have enjoyed at Toscana.

 

TOS Octopus
Carpaccio di Polpo con Patate al Vapore e Vinaigrette allo Champagne (Octopus Carpaccio with Champagne Vinaigrette and Warm Potato Salad)
TOS Eggpland
Involtini di Melanzane alla Ghiotta (Sliced Eggplant rolled and sautéed with Roasted Minced Veal Stuffing and Basil, baked in Fresh Tomato Sauce)


TOS Artichoke
Sformatino di Carciofi in Salsa Tartufata e Olio Aromatizzato all’Arugula (Artichoke and Parmesan Cheese Timbale with Black Truffle Sauce and Arugula Infused Oil)
TOSLinguini Cioppino
Linguine Cioppino (Linguini Pasta with Little Neck Clams, Black Mussels, Calamari, Shrimp, and Monk Fish sautéed in a Light Pinot Grigio and Cherry Tomato Sauce)

POLO GRILL

I admit, when writing about my dining experiences, it is almost impossible not to claim that each restaurant is my favorite. If you have dined with Oceania Cruises, I think you know what I mean, and you’ll understand when I say Polo Grill is another one of my favorites. Polo Grill offers the classic steak house experience with time-honored favorites done the way only Oceania Cruises can, perfectly. The steaks are USDA Prime and dry-aged for at least 28 days.

On a recent cruise, we had reservations at Polo Grill for the last night of the voyage, and my friend spent the entire trip in anticipation of devouring the signature 32-ounce prime rib. Some people claim that a steak this size couldn’t possibly be eaten in one sitting, but I have found the person for whom this cut of beef was designed. He savored every bite, and he was the first one to finish his entrée!

For those of us with daintier appetites, there are plenty of options as well. I find the 7-ounce filet mignon is more my size. And if you prefer seafood, Polo Grill has plenty of excellent options. How does Maine lobster with drawn butter, grilled mahi mahi or jumbo shrimp cocktail sound?

PG Shimp
Colossal Chilled Shrimp Trio with Spicy Cocktail Sauce
PG Prime Rib
King’s Cut 32 oz Prime Rib – Bone-in, Seasoned to Perfection, Slow Roasted and Served Medium Rare

TERRACE CAFÉ

If you’re looking for something slightly more casual, or if you just can’t decide what type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, Terrace Café offers a whole array of international selections in a buffet-style setting. The food is just as spectacular, and you can try a little bit of everything! You will find things like Marinated Fennel Salad, Cold Poached Salmon with Herbed Mayonnaise, Breaded Pork Parmigiana and Creamy Carrot and Pumpkin Soup. Onboard Marina and Riviera, there is even a sushi bar, which I try to visit daily. And good luck trying to decide on just one dessert! Whether you choose to dine indoors or alfresco on deck, the views are stunning in every direction.

TC Desserts
Dessert Selection
TC outside
Outside Seating

JACQUES

If you haven’t had a chance to take a voyage onboard Marina or Riviera, I highly recommend you do so. In addition to all of the amazing offerings onboard Regatta and Nautica, you will find two new restaurants, including Master Chef Jacques Pépin’s namesake restaurant. I recently had the pleasure of dining here and can’t say enough about the whole experience. Everything was just perfect, from the classic French cuisine to the charming French bistro ambiance.

Here are some photos of the amazing dishes my husband and I enjoyed on a recent trip:

JA Mussels
Moules Marinières (Fresh Mussels with Shallots, White Wine and Parsley)
JA Onion Soup
Gratiné à l’Oignon (Baked Onion Soup with Gruyère Cheese Crust)
JA Chicken
Poulet Fermier Rôti aux Herbes (Herb-crusted Black Foot Free Range Chicken au Jus with Gratin Dauphinois and Haricots Verts)

RED GINGER

The other new restaurant onboard Marina and Riviera is the Asian-inspired Red Ginger. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated, the centerpiece being three gorgeous busts of Buddha, each carved from a single piece of glass and lit from within.

Complimenting the stunning décor is an equally creative menu with contemporary interpretations of Asian classics. Rich, bold flavors are perfectly balanced with delicate subtleties. This is one of the most distinctive and delicious restaurants I have ever experienced, and the moment I finish a meal here I am already hoping for the opportunity to return as soon as possible.

RG Tuna Tataki
Tuna Tataki (Seared Tuna Filet, Shiso Sesame Crust, Wasabi Cream)
RG Lobster
Lobster Pad Thai (Rice Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Lime, Tamarind, Peanuts)
Seafood Stir-fried
Seafood Stir-fried (Scallops, Squid, Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Spring Onions, Ginger)

LA RESERVE

One of my favorite indulgences is dining at La Reserve by Wine Spectator. The restaurant seats only 24 and has an elite spot high atop deck 12. Each course is meticulously created, often before your very eyes, and great care has gone into pairing each dish with the perfect premium wine.

Dining at La Reserve is much more than a meal; it is a special event. When you finish an evening here, you feel like one of the most important and well cared for people on the planet.

LR Short Rib
72-Hour Slow Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi au Jus
LR Cab w Ribs
Paired with Gordon Brothers Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
LR Rasb
Chef making the Raspberry Caramelized Mille Feuille with Madagascan Vanilla Cream
LR Rasb Chat
Paired with Château la Varière, Les Melleresses Bonnezeaux, Loire Valley, France 

BEST SUITES

After a fabulous dinner onboard – and maybe a little dancing at Horizons lounge – there is nothing more perfect than retiring to what Cruise Critic editors called “the most sumptuous suites at sea.”

OWNER’S SUITE

The Owners’ Suites were designed by Susan Bednar Long of New York-based, award-winning Tocar Interior Design and are completely furnished with Ralph Lauren Home Collection. Feeling almost as big as my house, the closets are one of my favorite parts!

OS 1 OS 2 OS 5

OS 3 OS 4 OS 6

VISTA SUITES

When Marina first debuted, I had the great privilege of spending time in the suites with a few honored guests, including Dakota Jackson, the renowned American designer who created the Vista Suites.

OST LPF and DJ
Dakota Jackson pictured with Pancake, Blogger-at-Large

If you like to know where the ship is heading, you may prefer the view from these suites, which overlook the bow of the ship.

VS 1 VS 2

OCEANIA SUITES

Oceania Suites, also designed by Dakota Jackson, are so large you can comfortably host a cocktail party – and they even have the bar for it! Or, if you prefer, make it a quiet night and relax in the whirlpool tub on the veranda.

OST 5 OST 4

OST 2 OST 3

PENTHOUSE SUITES

Penthouse Suites are the smallest of the suites, but small is a relative term! Walk-in closets, marble and granite bathrooms, spacious and comfortable living quarters – one guest told me these suites were her favorite place onboard Marina.

One of the things I enjoy most onboard Oceania Cruises ships is lounging in the beautiful bathtubs. This is just one of many amenities that distinguishes Oceania Cruises suites, and on Marina and Riviera, bathtubs are also featured in most staterooms. There is a shower wand in the bath tub as well as a completely separate rainfall shower.

PS 1 PS 2

With the perfect accommodations and the ultimate cuisine, Oceania Cruises offers an unrivaled cruising experience at an extraordinary value. Some may say that I’m biased, but the editors at Cruise Critic have confirmed what I’ve known for some time: Oceania Cruises truly stands head and shoulders above the rest!

June 21, 2012

OCEANIA CLUB MANAGER NICK DESANTIS SHARES STORIES OF THE REUNION CRUISE

Captain Luca Manzi - Gibraltar
Captain Luca Manzi and Oceania Club Manager Nick DeSantis

Greetings from the Oceania Club Reunion Cruise!

My team has spent the last several months planning special events for this cruise to show our appreciation for our loyal past guests. Over the past few days we have hosted dinners, sail-away parties, a Captain’s reception, shore excursions, cocktail parties – and this is just day five of the cruise! It has been such a pleasure to see past guests with whom I’ve sailed before. So many of them have become dear friends. It’s been equally nice to meet some of our Oceania Club members for the first time and to have the opportunity to thank them for their loyalty.

In short, everyone is having a wonderful time!

DSC00829
From left: Mr. and Mrs. Doble, Kunal Kamlani, Sheila Brohman, Ken Reycraft, Mr. and Mrs. Grimwood, Daniela Kamlani, Mr. and Mrs. Addleson

On Monday evening, Oceania Cruises President Kunal S. Kamlani and his wife, Daniela, hosted a dinner in Privée for our most loyal Oceania Club members on this sailing. This elegant and intimate setting accommodates just ten guests for private dinners, so Kunal and Daniela invited some of our most frequent guests to join them for a truly memorable evening. These guests have sailed with us as many as 15 or 20 times! Sheila Brohman and Ken Reycraft become Platinum Oceania Club members on this voyage because it is their 20th cruise, which is free as part of the Oceania Club program.

DSC00852
The next evening Kunal, Daniela, Captain Luca Manzi and General Manager Thierry Tholon greeted guests as they arrived for the Captain’s Welcome Reception, always a favorite event of our Oceania Club members.

DSC00885
Kunal, Captain Manzi and the Senior Officers expressed their deep appreciation for all of our loyal guests, and Captain Manzi offered a toast in their honor. Following the reception, many of our guests enjoyed dinner in Toscana, and it was my great pleasure to join them!

DSC00896
Nick DeSantis with Mr. and Mrs. Addleson

Toscana is one of my favorite restaurants, and here is one reason why: Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma Ham with Candied Cherry Tomato. Delicious!

DSC00919
Kunal and Daniela also enjoyed dining with several Oceania Club members in Toscana that evening.

DSC00888
Captain Luca Manzi hosted guests in Toscana as well. They enjoyed their evening so much that they asked Toscana Chef Raffaele Saia and Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin to sign their menus.

DSC00929
What a wonderful cruise it has been so far, and this is only the beginning. I’ll be sure to share more stories and photos here on the blog very soon!

May 16, 2012

RIVIERA WELCOMES FIRST GUESTS ONBOARD FOR MAIDEN VOYAGE!

K_Kamlani_Riviera-003aPhoto by David Smith

The day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived! The officers, staff and crew were all smiles today as we welcomed our first guests onboard Riviera in Venice. It was my great pleasure to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Kohel as the very first guests for Riviera's Maiden Voyage. The Kohels are our first ever Diamond Oceania Club members and have sailed with us on more than 40 voyages.

K_Kamlani_Riviera-001aPhoto by David Smith

We have done a lot of celebrating over the past two weeks, but nothing gave me greater pleasure than welcoming all of our first guests onboard Riviera. Our guests are the reason we built Riviera, and I am so excited for them to experience this beautiful ship. It was a wonderful day that I will always treasure in my fondest of memories.

May 4, 2012

RIVIERA SETS SAIL FROM GENOA!

If you follow the blog, you’ve seen Chef Kelly sharing posts about her classes in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center and her outings to local markets ashore. She posted yesterday about her recent adventures in Sicily as she was finalizing the plans for the Culinary Discovery Tours that will be launched with Riviera. Her beautiful photos of all the fresh fish and produce made me think – I can’t leave Italy without a visit to the local markets!

You’ve probably noticed that almost everyone at Oceania Cruises is obsessed with great food, and I’m no exception. Like any family, food is a large part of what brings the Oceania Cruises family together. I am at best an amateur chef, and my skills in the kitchen certainly don’t compare to the likes of chefs Pépin, Garanger or Kelly, but I can still appreciate the beauty of a local market. So before we left Genoa today, I stole an hour to venture ashore, and look what I found…

Fresh fish right off the boat…

Genoa Fish Market
Gorgeous basil that makes the best pesto in the world... 

Genoa Vegetable Market
Handmade cheese in every variety imaginable…

Genoa Cheese Market
As you would expect, I found Chef Garanger shopping these same markets in preparation for our sail-away dinner in Toscana tonight! That was a telltale sign I was in the right place.

There is a reason that the cuisine served in Toscana rivals that of any Italian restaurant in the world. Many of the recipes have been handed down from the Italian mothers and grandmothers of our own culinary team. And the reason we spend more money on cuisine than any cruise line out there is that exquisite, authentic cuisine can only be created with the finest, freshest ingredients.

At this point I had to rush back to the ship because I could hardly wait for dinner. But no matter how spectacular the cuisine would be, I didn’t want it to eclipse the occasion we would be celebrating. Tonight would be the first ever sail-away celebration onboard Riviera. Tonight she would sail from Genoa and venture out into the open sea en route to her first ever port of call.

I have to say everyone onboard feels a bit like proud parents at this point. Parents out there know that when your kids are babies, it seems like every day they reach some new milestone that makes you beam with pride. Riviera seems to be doing the same. Over the past week we’ve taken official delivery, celebrated her last night in Genoa and sailed for her first port of call. And she has no plans to slow down because her Christening Cruise and Maiden Voyage are right around the corner.

Victor in ToscanaTonight as we said goodbye to Italy, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this historic moment than with a delicious meal in Toscana with members of the Oceania Cruises family – Victor Gonzalez and Fiona Applebaum.

Considering the flawless performance of the staff, it’s hard to believe that Riviera has not been at sea for years. Their service and presentation were impeccable.

The only challenge to an evening in Toscana is the decision making process. It started right from the beginning when we had to make a selection from the numerous olive oils and balsamic vinegars offered along with a selection of fine breads and crostini. In honor of Riviera’s godmother, I chose Chef Cat Cora’s olive oil. It seemed appropriate considering Chef Cora would be officially naming Riviera just a few days from now. And it was of course fantastic.

Toscana Olive Oils
But the decisions only got tougher from there…

For my pasta course, I finally settled on the special pasta of the day, which was linguini with sausage in a pomodoro sauce with freshly grated parmesan. The spices in the sausage perfectly complemented the rich flavor of the tomatoes, but the real star of the show was the fresh pasta.

Toscana Pasta
For my entrée, I chose the grilled veal chop with a porcini mushroom sauce and roasted potatoes. It melted in my mouth. Absolutely delicious.

Toscana Veal Chop
While I was absolutely ready for Toscana’s tiramisu, Victor reminded me I needed to pace myself. We have 12 days to go before we reach Venice and Riviera sets sail on her first Mediterranean voyage, which means there is a lot of desert in front of us. One hour later, I knew I shouldn't have listened to him...I missed that tiramisu!!!

March 15, 2011

MARINA GETS 5-STAR REVIEW from Patti Pietschmann, National Cruise Examiner

        

Travel writer Patti Pietschmann has given rave reviews after cruising onboard Marina during her 18-day Inaugural Passage. Below we've shared some of her glowing remarks, along with some photos captured by our Blogger at Large and one from our onboard Photo Coach, Curtis Hustace.

You can read this and other articles on Marina from Patti at examiner.com/cruise.

Miso Sea Bass

Miso Glazed Sea Bass featured in Red Ginger

 

OCEANIA CRUISES' MARINA WHETS THE APPETITE IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

By Patti Pietschmann

The first evening out of Miami set the tone for the maiden voyage of Oceania Cruises’ gunshot-across-the-bow in mid-size luxury cruising.  A woman at the table next to ours in Red Ginger, one of four no-charge alternative dinner restaurants onboard, looked down at her miso-glazed sea bass wrapped in a ti leaf closed with a tiny green clothespin and then up at her dining companion with misty eyes. “I think I could eat here every night,” she said with a note of awe in her voice.

Eavesdropping that first evening aboard the brand new Marina on her 18-day inaugural voyage from Miami through the Panama Canal to San Francisco (via Los Angeles, where we disembarked), may not have been polite. But listening while our fellow passengers praised the food on the fourth vessel and first new build in Oceania Cruises’ four-ship fleet pretty much gave away the headline for the 1,250-passenger ship. We heard the 20-ounce prime porterhouse served in the Polo Grill compared to those found in New York City’s renowned steakhouses, the beef carpaccio in Toscana extolled as exemplary, and the smoked salmon-wrapped salmon tartar in Jacques compared to a dish that might be served at Patina in downtown Los Angeles.

Which of the four was best? That was like asking fraternity guys which of the Victoria’s Secret models they favor.

That’s the food-forward way Marina, whose culinary godfather, after all, is the celebrated French chef Jacques Pepin (he of the eponymous Jacques) means to sail.

Terrace Chandelier

A striking chandelier in Terrace Café


Even dinner at the Terrace Café, the ship’s three-meal buffet restaurant—usually an afterthought on other cruise ships—strived for and often achieved a culinary level far loftier than might be expected. Aboard other ships, this restaurant is often an afterthought. Not here. At breakfast one morning, a passenger who had dined there the previous night buttonholed the maitre d ‘ and told him his meal had been “fabulous.” And one of your faithful reporters himself waxed ecstatic over lamb curry that was ideal in every way save for the odd absence of chutney, a touch that one comes to expect aboard Marina.

Frank Del Rio, the Miami-based cruise line’s CEO, quoted in Taste of the World coffee table book given to all inaugural cruise passengers, clearly enunciates Oceania’s battle cry. “We decided to budget more per guest for food than any other cruise company. Some spend that money on stage shows and dancing girls. We put it on the plate. We want the food to be the show, and the dining experience to be the entertainment.”

To that end, fully one-quarter of the ship’s crew work in the galleys, meaning approximately one cook for every ten passengers. It shows.

Just as much attention is paid to dining service, and on the decks too. Sometimes servers swarm to fill coffee cups and water glasses. It all gets a bit frantic at times. Plates are bussed perhaps too eagerly when a dining companion has not yet finished—an overlooked nuance that can get annoying.

What also quickly becomes annoying, or simply mysterious, is the reservation system for the alternative restaurants. Each stateroom gets one crack at each of the four, but then something akin to a free-for-all ensues. Dining slots are then assigned on a daily basis, beginning at eight in the morning, and a call almost always results in a sold-out shrug over the phone and placement  on a waiting list that sometimes results in a coveted reservation and sometimes not. The arcane system is explained nowhere.

This is a cruise ship designed as its own foodie destination, with virtually everything else—entertainment, ports of call—assigned a secondary role. We attended one show and then decided our time was better used for reading books from the elegant library. As for ports, we found it almost extraordinary that a cruise from Florida through the Caribbean didn’t stop at a single island. The Colombian port city of Cartagena was the only stop prior to transiting the Canal—always a highlight for many passengers except those who, like us, had made the transit numerous times.

Costa Rican Sunset
A Costa Rican sunset captured by Curtis Hustace

After the Canal, we stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where we bought a kilo of good shade-grown XXXXXX from Coffee John, who for years has set up a stand and sold his Shady Lady coffee whenever a cruise ship docks. We also bought coffee in Puerto Chiapas, the next port, where what later turned out to be a log snagged in the starboard propeller as we sailed away. That forced the captain to shut down propulsion on that side and to bypass Huatulco. At Acapulco, the next scheduled stop, divers freed the propeller. Aside from the skipped port, the glitch was hardly noticed by passengers.

The ship itself is a sharp departure for Oceania, formed in 2003 with repurposed previously owned vessels Insignia, Nautica and Regatta that are half the size of the 65,000 ton Marina and carry half the number of passengers. How roomy is Marina? It took us a week before we ran into Joe and Carol, who live in West Hills and we’ve known for years. Their stateroom was two away from ours.

Vista Living Room

The living room of one of the extraordinary Vista Suites

The Marina’s extra room is reflected in the number of balcony cabins (95% of the total), their size (standard staterooms measure 282 square feet, hardly spacious but bowling alleys compared 216 square-foot standard staterooms of the other ships), and the sprawling deck space including a huge-for-sea swimming pool whose length we could never learn (much head scratching and helpless shrugging) but pace-estimated at 35 feet.

The increased room also means Marina has those four no-charge alternative restaurants compared to two (Polo Grill, Toscana) on the other ships. Marina also has two specialty restaurants that do carry a surcharge--$75 to cover wine-pairing in La  Reserve, $1,000 for up to eight persons for a multi-course menu degustation in Privée.

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2011

THE EXCITEMENT ONBOARD MARINA CONTINUES!

     

Bob, Chefs

Whew! What a week it has been here onboard Marina! I've hardly had a moment to check in on the blog, so I thought it was time for an update. If you saw the post by our Blogger at Large on the Christening Cruise, you know that last weekend was an exciting and emotional event for all of us. You may not know that on the final night of that cruise, we celebrated with a grand performance by Willy Chirino. And Frank Del Rio may not know that I caught a couple of photos of him, his wife Marcia, and their grandkids dancing the night away. Frank was also thrilled to be invited to the stage to sing a few lines with Chirino!

Frank Dancing

Frank and Willie

The festivities ended all too soon - but just in time for more festivities to begin. Our guests disembarked the Christening Cruise on Tuesday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon more guests had embarked for the Inaugural Passage through the Panama Canal. It is amazing to watch the staff and crew ready the ship for the next cruise in just a few short hours. Before we knew it, it was time for the Sailaway Party as Marina departed for Cartagena, Colombia.

Inaugural Sail Champagne

Inaugural Sail Away

You may think that I will now have a chance to relax and take some time to enjoy all of our successes with Marina. But the work continues. While Marina is elegant, stunning and a whole other list of superlatives, Frank and I will settle for nothing short of perfection. For instance, yesterday we were raising the Buddha heads in Red Ginger so they would be more prominently displayed.

Raising Buddha

The other day Frank was walking down the stairs from his stateroom and suddenly stopped in his tracks. He pointed out the center post of the stair railing to myself and a couple other staff members that were nearby. The post and railing were painted black with some simple scrollwork, and Frank said, "That's not good enough." He decided a Moroccan silver overlay perhaps would improve the stair railing's appearance. It's all in the details!

Meanwhile, we also have film crews, models, editors, and a host of other Oceania Cruises team members onboard to film and photograph shots of Marina. One of our Owner's Suites has been taken over by crew members capturing Marina's beauty from every angle.

Working at Owner's Bar


Elise in Mirror

Editing on Bar

One of our butlers gets a touch up before going in front of the camera.

Delinting Butler

Butler Video Video

Chef awaits his big moment.

Chef on Set

Speaking of chefs, I haven't mentioned our cuisine lately, but it continues to impress. I had to share a photo of this beautiful brioche.

Brioche

And below is the spinach and goat cheese salad I had in Toscana last night.

Toscana Goat Cheese Salad
I had to make up for my morning during which I had my usual chocolate croissant, however a guest showed me how to make it even better. I now slather it in peanut butter.

No matter how hard we may be working, we certainly continue to eat well! 

 

 

January 24, 2011

MARINA SAILS! ...and sails....and sails!

    

Hustace Photo-1-Barcelona Pano
We've said "bon voyage" to Barcelona, and what an eventful couple of days it has been! It is such a thrill for Frank and I to welcome all of our guests onboard and to get to talk with so many of you. After sharing so much on the blog and hearing all of your comments, it has been wonderful to meet so many of you in person and experience Marina together. Below is a shot of lovely Marina in port in Barcelona before sailing on the Maiden Voyage.

Marina-Barcelona Port

And a spectacular shot of Marina at night.

Hustace Photo-12-Upper Deck Night
Apparently Marina is fond of the seas, because she has decided to enjoy another sea day! Inclement weather prevented us from calling at Malaga today, so as an alternative we tried for Gibraltar. But that did not work out because they closed the port, so we are off to Morocco. Frank and Marcia Del Rio were supposed to disembark today in Malaga, but instead they will be sailing on with us to Casablanca. So much for my taking some time off when Frank wasn't around!

Despite the rough seas, Marina is handling them very well. Mother Nature can cause some challenges though, so we are staying on our toes. Tonight will be the premier one of our new shows - Con Molto. We were supposed to do River Rhapsody, but those costumes are still in Malaga.

This afternoon's Chocolate Decadence class in the Bon Appetit Culinary Center should be a sweet spot on a sour day! As we suspected it would be, every day is a new adventure onboard Marina. 

Hustace Photo-9-Grand Staircase

You may have noticed that the quality of today's photos is quite impressive. No, my photography skills have not improved that much, but it appears that they would if I took classes onboard at the Artist Loft from Curtis Hustace, our Photo Coach. He captured today's photos, and we thank him so much for sharing!  We can't wait to learn from your expertise.

Hustace Photo-7-Vase

Hustace Photo-8-Terrace Chandelier

The first rave reviews are also coming in. Below I've shared some comments from David on the Cruise Critic message boards. It's his first voyage with Oceania Cruises, and if his impressions are any indication, we're meeting with great success! The links to the Cruise Critic pages are also included below if you'd like to read more:

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
It is beautiful.

It is more than you can imagine.

It is Marina….and before I’ve even had my first night on board, I can tell you that you will want to be onboard. 

Work is still being done….minor things and only to be expected.

First Impressions:

1. The public spaces are more grand and beautiful than any picture you’ve seen so far.
2. Even the carpet is more plush..every step is cushioned.
3. Staff is very friendly, but do not seem harried.
4. Everything is designed with an emphasis on home or perhaps an upscale boutique hotel.
5. The penthouse rooms are VERY nice…if you need more space than that, please feel free to donate to me!
6. Our balcony room is quite adequate. Slightly smaller than the R & S class balcony rooms on Holland.
7. The gel bed feels fantastic and you literally sink in slowly to a comfortable level.
8. They have crammed a lot into a little space.
9. Jacques and Red Ginger standout in terms of design..the designers did a great job creating great atmosphere there.
10. Small touches like soft close drawers are quite nice. In other words, there is a “cushion” feel to closing them.
11. Horizon’s lounge is REALLY nice. The smoking area is glassed off and to the port side. It’s a very expansive space.
12. The library is BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, beautiful. My wife will get lost in there.
13. Lunch service was paced well and very fresh in taste and appearance. Dishes everywhere are gorgeous.

Okay..I’ll be sending some photos of menus, etc. along the way (don’t want to show you EVERYTHING on the first day  I have to have some reason for you to come back to read more!

First shocker: house wines and spirits…FREE this first cruise for those who enjoy such a thing. Even mixed drinks, etc.

We are promised more surprises as we go along.

Dinner was great. The Grand Dining room at night was like gold spun butter poured into a crystal mould. There were bites of steamed dumplings, shrimp, wonderful salads and great entrees. Our favorite was definitely the Veal Oscar. We arrived at 630pm before the pre-dinner drinkers arrived (i.e. noisy/loud). I caught a glance of FDR patrolling the dining room.

I’ll post a few pics each day. I’ll certainly try to keep the menus coming!

In summary, this is a ship for adults with all the trappings of someone’s home. Even in public spaces we were met very few people and nothing seemed crowded.

Marie in the dining room was efficient, Anton the sommelier was quite engaging..and Mia and Dannielle from the entertainment staff were so so friendly.

Tomorrow, the menu at Waves grill looks GREAT…and I’m at the Bon Appetit culinary center in the afternoon.

Toscana for dinner tomorrow night.

By the way, they were handing out extra specialty dining venue reservations this afternoon on a first come first serve basis. 

We were delayed on our sail away for a few moments(didn’t bother us) as they were looking for a few folks…all were found.

In summary, if you haven’t booked your Marina trip, do it now! I can safely say that based on the first day experience. I look forward to more reports as we go.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1339111&page=4

 

Daddy Sang Bass, Mamma Sang Tenor

Me and little brother just joined right in!

I finally got it last night. I got the fascination with O.

Prior to dinner time last night, the ship hosted a special toast to the maiden voyage. Several venues were full of merry makers as staff were moved in to the area to deliver wine, champagne, mimosas, and rum punch drinks. Additional staff flooded, and I mean flooded, the area with hot and cold bites. The puff pastries with warm, melted cheese were my favorite. 

They were coming around at an average of one every 90 seconds to offer bites. I’ve been on other lines and have not been nearly so impressed with the service when it was time to do something like this. O made sure everyone was taken care of in this respect. I do not know if this is standard on most voyages or just because of the nature of this one.

Dinner was in Toscana. I have taken several pictures of the different dishes we ordered and will post them soon enough. I am not one to give away everything  So you won’t see all of them.

The waiter was appropriately from Italy. We liked the olive oil and balsamic vinegar choices..but it would have been nice to have had a menu, much like the dessert menu, to be able to read/see the descriptions. This would have been especially true of the olive oils. That being said, lemon, chili, rosemary, garlic, basil, were just some of the flavors.

ALL of the dishes were good, but if you are looking for room in the cavern called your stomach, you might want to skip the salads.

Some of the favorites: the eggplant stuffed with veal, the Trio Toscana and the Veal Marsala.

I need to clarify another issue. It is more than just Mr. Binder and Del Rio taking care of business. There are obviously engineers and the man responsible for the ship building running around. They are ALL working hard and attending to details. However, to the untrained eye, I haven’t the foggiest notion what those might be. If I didn’t know any better, Riviera, is probably getting a few adjustments planned because of this sailing.

Now, I started this post with an interesting observation. Daddy Sang Bass & Momma sang tenor. I believe I now get it. I know why Oceania doesn’t want to be a luxury line. Luxury implies self indulgent opulence. Premium means one places a high value on something. From the design of the ship to the nature of the approach to dining and spaces, this is all about family. The ship is meant to be home, not a resort. You don’t spend all day at your home trying to 1000 activities. In fact, especially from a man’s perspective, home is where you relax and have peace/calm.

I’m sure 90% or more of the passengers are repeat O cruisers. If I didn’t know any better, they are here to support Oceania! That’s what family does. They help each other during birth pangs and departures, through graduations, and moves to bigger houses.

Thus, Daddy does sing bass here and mamma does sing tenor. Because in the familiar words of the Johnny Cash tune, the circle won’t be broken. 
Thus, I think that is the real reason we refer to the line as “O”.

David C
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http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1339111&page=6

Hustace Photo-11-Pool Night
Thank you again to Curtis for the fabulous photos and to David for sharing his experiences on Cruise Critic. And of course, I will continue to keep you posted here on the blog as Marina's Maiden Voyage continues!

January 14, 2011

THE PRESIDENT'S COUNTDOWN: 7 Days to Marina's Maiden Voyage!

Red Ginger Jan 11
We are officially one week away from Marina’s Maiden Voyage, and I have to say this countdown is making me hungry!  Still, I keep getting great shots of the new restaurants and the fabulous menus, and I just have to pass them on to you as part of the final sneak peeks before Marina’s unveiling.

The photo above is of Red Ginger, the contemporary new Asian-fusion restaurant onboard Marina. You’ll see the décor is strikingly modern, and the menus are done in a sharp, minimalist style that complements the décor. Some of the dishes you can look forward to are: 

Caramelized Tiger Prawns - onions, chili garlic sauce, scallions

Avocado Lobster Salad - lobster, crispy lotus, avocado, tuna, hamachi, den miso, shiso vinegar

Thai Vegetable Curry - green curry sauce, sweet potato, aubergine, fried tofu, mushrooms, basil, cherry tomatoes

Malaysian Beef Penaeng - beef short rib, nutty curry paste, coconut, paratha roti

Below are photos of Polo Grill and Toscana, two specialty restaurants featured on all of our ships. If you've cruised onboard Regatta, Insignia, or Nautica, you'll notice that the décor of these restaurants differs on Marina, but once you try them, you'll immediately recognize Polo Grill's classic steakhouse fare and Toscana's authentic Italian.

Polo grill jan 13

Polo Grill

 

Toscana jan 13

Toscana


I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering. If you've already booked a voyage on Marina, you can go online now to make reservations for Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana, or Jacques. And check back here on the blog for my next sneak peek on Day 6 of our countdown tomorrow!