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Cooking in Paradise: New Caribbean Culinary Classes

From savory huevos rancheros with lime crema and spiced snapper on wilted greens to decadent Mayan cocoa pots and DIY ginger beer, the recipes featured in The Culinary Center’s latest season of Caribbean cooking classes are just the thing to warm up your winter.

The perfect way to get to know the paradise islands of the Caribbean as you sail from one to the next is to roll up your sleeves and learn the secrets of local recipes by trying them out yourself – guided by one of our talented Chef Instructors, of course. Below is a quick look at the fresh new offerings, all best paired with the turquoise water, white sand and laid-back lifestyle of the islands.

2018 Caribbean Culinary Classes

1493: The Foodie’s New World
When 15th-century explorers sailed back to Spain from the New World, they introduced ingredients that revolutionized Mediterranean cuisine such as peppers, potatoes, melons, corn and tomatoes – not to mention exotic spices. This class honors the ingredients that redefined the cuisines of the Americas, the Mediterranean, and introduces you to several exquisite recipes perfect for hosting a memorable post-cruise dinner party.

Argentine-Style Master Grilling
Perhaps the only country that rivals the United States in their mastery of grilling is Argentina. In this technique-driven class, learn chefs’ insider secrets to consistently grill meats, fish, vegetables and breads to savory perfection. In the Argentine tradition, you’ll also learn expert tips for creating sauces and marinating, as well as indoor and outdoor grilling essentials.

Break Out Of Your Shell: Celebrate The Egg
Ask our chefs to name their favorite ingredient, and most will passionately tell you: eggs. This class features The Culinary Center chefs’ most-requested egg recipes, all inspired by the cuisines of the Americas. It’s a celebration of the amazing versatility of eggs, complete with sparkling cocktail pairings. Join us for this classic cooking class to learn all about the art and science – and diversity – of cooking with the incredible egg.

Caribbean Fresh
Island cuisine is not only fresh and vibrant – it’s remarkably healthy. Healthy cuisine is the backbone of Canyon Ranch, and our inspiration for this class. The recipes featured in this class comfort both the body and soul, and are all inspired by culinary traditions from across the Caribbean islands. Delight and surprise yourself with the astounding depth of flavors you can enjoy while nourishing yourself and your family.

Catch Of The Day
Nothing says Caribbean cuisine more than enjoying the bounty of the sea. Gain confidence to cook several different types of fish and seafood as you learn master-level fish cookery techniques and flavorful island-style recipes at the same time. To help expand your seafaring repertoire and palate, discover more about lesser-known fish varieties that make great substitutes for your favorites.

Cocina Latina
In recent years, our chefs have traveled throughout Latin America, from Mexico to Patagonia, to learn the recipes and ingredients of this revered and distinct cuisine. Based on a careful balance, Latin cuisine elevates basic ingredients, such as the potato and rib-eye steak, to extraordinary levels. Master our chef-selected recipes and cocktails – all abundant in flavor and personality – that have made the Latin American kitchen the new frontier of foodies worldwide.

Floribbean: Florida Meets Caribbean
The sultry Caribbean and South Florida food scenes are where vibrant and diverse cultures meet bold flavors. This class explores the trendy fusion of Caribbean and Floridian dishes – Floribbean cuisine – a fresh celebration of delicious dishes for entertaining at home. In addition to learning some new savory recipes, you’ll master tropical cocktails and island-inspired desserts.

See you in The Culinary Center on Marina & Riviera this winter!

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Viñales Valley: Lush Land of Tobacco & Mogotes

By Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares

The scenery shifts from the sun-faded dwellings of suburban Havana to horse-drawn carts clattering along the winding road. Sightings of royal palms, Cuba’s national tree, increase with every passing mile as they soar skyward in regal splendor against the iconic backdrop of distant misty mountains. Henna-red iron-rich soil defiantly contrasts abundant bright green tobacco leaves. We are arriving in Viñales Valley, one of Cuba’s prized UNESCO World Heritage sites and a mecca for cultivating tobacco.

The beautiful Viñales Valley in Cuba’s westernmost province, Pinar del Rio Province, makes for the perfect respite from the hustle of Havana. Here the climate and soil conditions are ideal for tobacco growing. As we learned on our Viñales Valley excursion, the indigenous Amerindians throughout New World were well acquainted with this indigenous plant, its cultivation and the pleasures derived from its use. They were heavy smokers and didn’t take long to hook Spaniards on smoking.

As our guide explained, once tobacco leaves reach the right size for picking, they are sewn or tied in pairs and are placed over rods set up on poles for air-drying in the fields. Later they will be moved into the drying barns for a lengthy process of heat curing.

The thatch drying barns, built in the centuries-old tradition of indigenous houses, or bohios, simultaneously ventilate the tobacco leaves and protect them from sun and rain. Thousands of withering tobacco leaves suspend lazily from the rafters as they permeate the air with their potpourri. The proprietor’s son selected a few choice leaves to demonstrate his cigar-rolling prowess before passing around the finished product for a closer look.

In the Havana cigar factories, “torcadores,” or “twisters,” train for decades to meet the strict state-regulated standards that qualify their handiwork to bear the bands of the famous Cuban brands like Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta and Montecristo. The torcadores are highly esteemed in Cuban society for enduring an apprenticeship that rivals the rigors and longevity of a university career.

Our hosts use lunchtime as the opportunity to prove that Cubans are the world’s most hospitable people. Ceramic platters and china plates groan under piles of fresh-caught tuna, chicken and pork with all the trimmings. The sumptuous meal, savored family-style on long tables affording us a million-dollar vista of Viñales, is capped off with abuela’s own sweet flan made just that morning.

Afterwards, we had the chance to explore a mogote cave. Mogotes are curiously rounded hills that puff up from the valley floor like muffins. Our local guide explains that these fixtures of the Cuban landscape can reach heights beyond 1,000 feet. Conventional wisdom is that they rose with the island from the seabed about 300 million years ago, before the splitting of the supercontinent that ultimately formed the jigsaw puzzle of the Caribbean. Inside, mogotes are honeycombed by lattice works of caverns, some dissected by rivers as in the case of Indian Cave, which we explored next.

At Indian Cave, we descended dozens of steps chiseled from the limestone, arriving at an mysterious river where a gondola ferried us along the still and dark waters of this haunting subterranean Styx. A shock of daylight appeared on the other side, we were greeted by the comically myopic stare of Señor Tomás, the charismatic water buffalo. Señor Tomas allows guests to alight on his amply saddled backside for a brief but unforgettable ride at the end of a memorable day in Viñales Valley.

I’m looking forward to sailing back to Cuba again this spring and fall on Sirena – I hope to see you there!

May 4, 2018 | Timeless Cuba | 7 Days
May 11, 2018 | Cultural Awakening | 9 Days
May 20, 2018 | Postcards From Cuba | 8 Days
September 16, 2018 | Postcards From Cuba | 8 Days
September 24, 2018 | Cuban Charisma | 9 Days
October 3, 2018 | Timeless Cuba | 7 Days

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Finding Zen in Asia: New Wellness Tours

From a traditional luncheon at a teahouse in Saigon to Tai Chi at an iconic Buddhist shrine in Myanmar, new rejuvenating wellness tours across Asia invite you to experience exotic destinations in an entirely new way. Our exclusive wellness tour collection, Wellness Tours Inspired by Canyon Ranch, has expanded from Europe to now feature nearly 50 immersive well-being explorations ashore in fascinating, hand-picked locations across Asia, Australia, South America and beyond.

Below is a look at our top experiences across Asia. Click the tour name to view the complete shore excursion description and availability, and here to explore the full collection.

Bangkok, Thailand
Reflexologist on Rice Barge
Indulge in reflexology, a foot therapy thought to enhance relaxation and reduce pain, while cruising Bangkok’s central river on a historical, wooden rice barge. As you sail the calm waters of the Chao Phraya River and discover more about Bangkok’s history, a reflexologist will gently apply pressure to your feet, following a foot chart that details the corresponding organs and body systems.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
An Ultimate Traditional Dance Therapy
Release tensions and positively alter your mood in a therapeutic Kandyan dance session, where you will practice the graceful moves of Sri Lanka’s national dance. In Mount Lavinia, a dance guru will teach you the basics of traditional Kandyan dance, an ancient folk dance that originated in the Sri Lankan city of Kandy and has become an iconic performance art throughout Sri Lanka.

Hong Kong, China
Traditional Chinese Medicine Experience
Visit a traditional Chinese medicine clinic for a private consultation and then receive a personalized treatment such as acupuncture, cupping therapy, or moxibustion. Enjoy the benefits of your personalized therapies, which are meant to restore the balance of body, mind, and spirit.

Mangalore, India
Chakrapani Ayurveda and the Gokarnath Temple
Enjoy an enlightening consultation with a holistic Ayurveda doctor, whose healing system was developed in India more than 3,000 years ago to promote good health by keeping the mind, body, and spirit in balance. Later, delve further into the local culture by visiting a bustling marketplace, where you can experience the hustle and bustle of daily life while enjoying the cacophony of sounds and unusual sights.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
Saigonese Organic Food Tasting
Discover the benefits of eating organic while immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture as you visit a traditional teashop and restaurant. Sample several organic teas grown in the Vietnamese mountains, learn about the country’s 2000-year-old history with tea and enjoy a flavorful, aromatic lunch made with seasonal organic ingredients.

Yangon, Myanmar
Tai Chi Practice at Shwedagon Pagoda Park
Practice low-impact tai chi in a park dominated by an iconic Buddhist shrine and then savor an organic breakfast at a contemporary tea house. As the country’s holiest Buddhist shrine, Shwedagon Pagoda Park serves as an ideal backdrop for tai chi.

Stay tuned for details on new tours in Australia and South America next month!

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Travel Inspiration: Q&A with 2018 Around the World Cruisers

Charles and Debra Dyer from Tucson, Arizona have long dreamed of traveling around the world on a cruise and exploring so many of the places they have read about over the years. On Wednesday evening just a few days into 2018, that dream was set into motion as the couple sailed away from Miami on our magnificent 180-day 2018 Around the World voyage aboard Insignia.

From the moment they entered the cruise terminal, it was clear that it was a celebratory occasion – Charles was dancing to the sounds of the live big band music as they made their way to the World Cruisers lounge area and Debra was beaming. Later in the afternoon, we sat down with Charles and Debra, Platinum-Level Oceania Club members, at the Around the World Cruise reception to hear their story.

What inspired you to book this Around the World voyage?
Debra: We’ve had a love of travel since we first met. The day after we retired we had the car packed up and we were ready to really travel, and so we did a four-month trip across the United States. Charles has wanted to go around the world since we’ve retired. It was time.
Charles: We’ve cruised all over on many different lines – we’ve really done them all, but a few years ago we tried Oceania Cruises and it’s the best. So this is the ship and this is our year.

What destination are you most excited to explore?
Charles: I spent a year in Australia, so I’m really anxious to go back. I really want to see Hiroshima and Japan, the Great Wall too – my wife spent her entire career in China so it will be fascinating to go there.
Debra: Going back for pleasure will be totally different! I’m excited to see Australia and New Zealand too just because of Charles’ stories and experiences there.
Charles: I have a daughter that lives in there, in Melbourne, Australia, that’s a physician so we’ll be able to see my little grandkids again.

How did you prepare for a voyage of this magnitude?
Debra: His nickname for me is “The Spreadsheet Queen.” Lots of spreadsheets! We’ve traveled so much – you really know what you need after several trips and it’s easy to make lists to keep track. So we actually started packing back in June and were 75% packed then.

Charles: She’s a logistical genius! Debbie did it all – and she’s just so smart and organized. I actually feel kind of guilty, I was just telling her last night…I haven’t done a thing to prepare for this trip. I’m just along for the ride – dancing as I go along!

What’s the longest you’ve been at home in recent years – and how do you spend your time there?
Charles: Probably two months. All she’s doing at home – this little sweet angel – is planning our next trip.
Debra: We can’t sit still for more than a couple of weeks. As soon as we get it home, it’s always “Where are we going next?”

What is your advice to travelers considering a world cruise?
Charles: If your health is good, go for it!
Debra: Go while you can! So many things come up in life, and regret for not traveling sooner is the number one thing we hear.

How would you sum up your hopes and expectations for your Around the World cruise?
Charles: Challenging, exciting and wondrous.
Debra: It’s about the experiences – from great adventures like going King Crabbing in Norway to spending time with school kids in Guatemala – traveling is the about the unexpected and special experiences.

Enjoy this short video Q&A with some of our Around the World in 180 Days travelers, including Charles and Debra:

Stay tuned for more video clips from our staff and guests on our exciting 2018 Around the World voyage!

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Expert Guide to St. Barts

by Guest Lecturer Sandy Cares

The undisputed Holy Grail of French islands in the Caribbean, sun-drenched St. Barts may be off-limits to many cruise lines, but aboard Oceania Cruises, we are among the few anointed to gain entry to this exclusive port of call. The annual New Year’s gathering place of the rich and famous, this French-spirited island is a dream escape during the winter. After a morning shore excursion of sailing aboard a luxurious catamaran or setting off on an adventurous ATV tour of the island, you will still have plenty of time to explore this Caribbean gem on your own. After many visits to this beautiful island, here are a few of my top suggestions.

Swim at Shell Beach
So named for the millions of little shells that crunch underfoot, Shell Beach is so close to the tender drop-off that you won’t find a taxi that will take you here. Simply follow the signs to “La Plage” and expect to walk for about 15 to 20 blissful minutes. The commanding beauty here is undeniably the clear blue water. There is no admission to the beach but chair rentals and amenities from the restaurant, Do Brazil, may cost you. If you prefer to “see and be seen” with the chance for a celebrity sighting, take a taxi over to St. Jean, relax at Nikki Beach and lunch at Eden Rock.

Stroll Around the Careenage
Historically, the Careenage of Gustavia provided a safe hideaway for pirates and ship captains to clean – “careen” – their ships. Today it’s where some of the world’s most dazzling yachts, many belonging to celebrities, dock. From where the tender drops guests off, you can take a peasant stroll along the boardwalk stopping at leisure to take in some of the island’s historic and cultural sights, or just sip coffee or a drink from a waterfront bistro as you gaze at one of the world’s prettiest views.

Waterfront Museum & Drink at Presqu’ile
Walk completely around the Careenage to visit the little museum right on the waterfront. The Wall House building, which survived a fire in 1852, serves today as the island’s museum, showcasing a permanent exhibit about the patrimony and temporary exhibits of more contemporary interest like a recent Jasper Johns show. Upstairs is the island library, modern and well-trafficked. On the way back, stop in Presqu’ile, St. Barts’ best corner bar for meeting the locals and chatting up the visiting captains over the cheapest brew while enjoying the most stunning waterfront view of Gustavia.

See the Anchor, Anglican Church & Swedish Clock Tower
Along the boardwalk, you’ll pass an enormous anchor near the waterfront. It was dragged to St. Barts accidently by a captain coming from French Town in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, or one story goes. St. Bartholomew Anglican Church is directly across the street inviting you for an all-too tempting photo opportunity and generally is open if you wish to go inside. If you stand near the anchor, face the church and look at about 10 or 11:00 you will see the Swedish clock tower, an example of Swedish architecture from the era of the island’s Swedish occupation. Take a walk up to it to see the “Sundial” door, painted to preserve the sun’s shadow falling across it.

Discover more history and island stories when you escape the chill and join me for adventures in St. Barts and other sunny Caribbean ports this winter.
Seaswept Breezes | January 13, 2018; February 16, 2018; March 8, 2018
Captivating Caribbean | January 23, 2018
Island Paradise | February 6, 2018
Sunny Charms | February 26, 2018