6a0120a92e343a970b01901e30cc37970b-800wiOn 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

6a0120a92e343a970b01910426f36f970c-800withat 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.



Before I hopped off Riviera in Livorno to join Marina in Athens and host our second Bon Appétit Signature Sailing, I had the chance to have one final meal with our wonderful guests from Myriad Restaurant Group. To bid a fond farewell, General Manager Thierry Tholon and I hosted a table for Drew Nieporent, Ted Rozzi and Chris Messina at La Reserve. To dine with one of the most famous restaurateurs in the world was a real treat for both of us, and to showcase our food and wine pairing restaurant, La Reserve, a collaboration between Oceania Cruises and Wine Spectator magazine, was very special indeed!

We started the evening with a glass of champagne on the deck outside of La Reserve and had a lovely time relaxing before dinner and meeting the rest of the 24 guests dining that night at La Reserve.

After being seated, we began with an introduction to the night’s “Exploration Menu” from Christophe Belin, the senior executive chef of Riviera. (La Reserve offers three menus: Exploration, Connoisseur and Discovery.)

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Chef Belin explained each of the seven courses, focusing especially on the pairing of specific elements in the food with distinct attributes of the wine. Chef Belin is from Brittany and is as engaging and informative as he is entertaining and knowledgeable, so the guests enjoyed his personal touches.

Before the amuse bouche, the waiters explained the four salts served tableside. Drew, Ted and Chris each tasted the salts with the delectable baguette slices and French butter.

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The first course was the amuse bouche, which literally translates from French, “amuse the mouth” – and that it did! We savored a bay scallop on a seared hot rock with lava salt and rock chive cress. The scallop was paired with a prosecco from Veneto. The white pepper and citrus finish of the sparkling wine was a perfect match!


The appetizer was a stuffed brioche with foie gras paired with a chenin blanc from the Loire Valley. The slight note of quince jelly in this wine paired perfectly with the buttery brioche and the creamy, earthy foie gras. Chef Rozzi and I had a great time photographing the food and its elegant plating – I even managed to snap a photo of him snapping a photo of his brioche.

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Next came one of my favorite pairings, the risotto primavera with a Gewürztraminer from Alto Adige. The risotto was finished with a smoky scamorza di bufala (smoked mozzarella cheese) that brought it all together, both food and wine.


Our fish course was a grilled turban of wild salmon and turbot, a dish that Oceania Cruises Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger, the architect of this menu, has won many awards for. A California Chardonnay, with butterscotch, vanilla and melon notes was the perfect match for the flavorful fish accompanied by a seaweed casserole.

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We rounded the corner on the dinner with a Chateaubriand with bordelaise sauce paired with a full-bodied Bordeaux. The beef was perfectly cooked and so soft we could cut it with our forks!



The cheese course was one of my favorites – gorgonzola, Napoleon style, with poached pear. Light, savory and sweet, it was the perfect cheese dish for this menu. It was paired with a voluptuous, golden Fonseca Porto from Portugal, with a light touch of acidity. Perfection!

As the pastry chefs filed in to finish the dinner, we watched Chef Bruno dip cherries in sugar for the plating of his Chocolate Mousse. This airy and rich mousse is served with a simple and refreshing Moscato d’Asti from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy.

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The test of a great food and wine pairing menu, according to Thomas Keller of the famed restaurants French Laundry and Per Se, is that the dinner leaves you feeling satisfied but not stuffed. This was certainly the case with our group. We had progressed through seven delicious and inventive pairings and left satisfied yet comfortable. What better way to end this amazing voyage than a lovely evening, great company, excellent food and wine and the gentle sea air?


We are all so grateful for the generosity of Drew Nieporent, David Gordon, Ted Rozzi and Chris Messina. Riviera guests had a wonderful time and learned a lot from all of them. We are already trying to figure out how we can have them back next year for another fabulous Signature Sailing.




Any fan of Oceania Cruises knows that exquisite cuisine is one of our hallmarks. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our onboard restaurants serve only the finest cuisine. Our culinary success can be largely attributed to Vice Chairman Bob Binder, Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and to the vision of our Executive Culinary Director, Master Chef Jacques Pépin.

Chef Pépin has been a source of inspiration for our entire culinary team since day one, but his contribution to the organization does not end there. Onboard Marina – and soon Riviera – we proudly feature his first-ever namesake restaurant, Jacques, a charming Parisian-style bistro serving authentic, timeless French classics.

“A brasserie is an intimate restaurant because dining is a very human experience,” says Chef Pépin. “It may be one of the greatest experiences to share food with friends.”


Pépin’s great love of not only fantastic food, but also the dining experience itself, manifests in every detail of Jacques. As one would expect, each course is a culinary masterpiece, but equal attention has also been given to the exquisite design of the chairs and the custom preparation of the bread. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant is very personal, almost as if Pépin has invited you to join him for dinner at his home. Some of the artwork gracing the walls even came from his personal collection.

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In the foreword to Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises, Pépin writes, “We have designed the menu and the space itself in the spirit of the great brasseries and bistros of France­ – casual yet with a certain elegance and a dreamlike feeling of entering another time.”


As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the pleasure of dining at Jacques, and my only regret is that Jacques is not the corner restaurant down the street from my home. Jacques would always be my choice for celebrations, even if I were simply celebrating the company of good friends. Dining at Jacques is more than just a great meal; it’s an experience.


It goes without saying that an evening at Jacques begins with an excellent bottle of French wine, so without further delay, let’s move on to the cuisine. Chef Pépin’s vision was to offer a taste of classic French dishes, prepared the right way. He says, “This is the kind of ‘perfect meal’ food that satisfies me and makes me happy. It has panache and style, but it’s also familiar and comforting, and I hope that combination makes you happy, too.”

It certainly does. Chef Franck Garanger has collaborated with Pépin to create a menu that is sure to please. The classics are here in abundance, and each dish is masterfully executed, from the escargots to the French onion soup to the pommes frites to the canard à l’orange. The only challenge is to limit yourself to a reasonable number of courses, and the wait staff will be of no assistance there, as they only encourage you to fully indulge your palate’s every desire.

I cleverly resolved my conflict over which entrée to select by ordering one of the entrées as an appetizer—the Coquille Saint-Jacques aux Morilles et Pommes de Terre Fondantes. This delightful dish featured perfectly seared scallops over fondant potatoes that melted in my mouth. The flavor of the morel mushrooms provided the ideal complement.

My husband began with the Escargots à la Bourguignonne. I could barely contain myself long enough to allow him the first taste. The escargots filled my mouth with the rich, buttery flavor that is the essence of French cooking, and I could not resist dipping my baguette in the delicious sauce.

We of course had to try the French onion soup. You won’t be surprised to hear that it was exceptional, and Chef Pépin explains why. “The onion soup is made with real Gruyère, real bread and real stock, seasoned the right way, and served in the right bowl with that little indentation that catches the cheese so it forms a perfect crust in the oven. These small touches add up to a very great difference.”

I can certainly bear witness to the truth of that statement.

We decided to try another classic soup as well, the Soupe de Poisson Marseillaise. This delicious fish soup was served with crisp garlic croutons and rouille sauce on the side, so I could garnish it exactly as I wished. Trusting the chef’s judgment on the portions provided, I decided it would be best to use every bit of the garnish, and I believe I made the correct choice. The flavor profile was both intense and well balanced.

Jacques16For my entrée, I knew from the onset that I would be unable to resist the Homard Thermidor à ma Façon. When it arrived, I recognized at once that it would be everything I had hoped. The lobster was baked in shell in a delectable mushroom cream sauce and served with crispy parmesan. It was both decadent and comforting at the same time.

My husband ordered the Carré de Veau Mariné à la Tapenade from the rotisserie. As if the aromas wafting through Jacques are not enough, the rotisserie is open to view so that the roasting meats can tempt you visually as well. My husband’s inability to resist was duly rewarded. The veal was unbelievably tender and flavorful.

As if all of this were not enough to satiate us, there were also many tantalizing choices available to accompany the entrées. My husband and I were unsuccessful in our attempt to make a modest selection.

It is with a great sense of shame that I confess I simply could not find room for dessert. There was a pastry display at the front of Jacques filled with delectable options, and I’d had grand notions of sampling several. But the side dishes were ultimately my undoing. Had I been able to forego the Gratin Dauphinois, I may have been able to try a dessert, but I have to say the creamy, crispy buttery goodness of those perfectly prepared potatoes was worth the sacrifice.

I guess this means I will be forced to return and sample the pastries another time. Chef Franck Garanger continues to create sumptuous new dishes to feature in Jacques, so I feel obliged to try these as well. I am most definitely up to the task, and I hope the opportunity presents itself very soon.





Red Ginger Stand

The hottest new restaurant in town isn’t in town at all. It’s onboard Oceania Cruises’ new ship Marina. You may have to book a European cruise this summer in order to try it, but go ahead. It’s worth it.

I hate the word “favorite.” Call it a character flaw, but I enjoy so many things, especially when it comes to cuisine, that I hate to say I enjoy one in particular above all the rest. It seems somehow insulting to all the other perfectly wonderful experiences that by default come in somewhere between second and last. So while my love of all restaurants onboard Marina prevents me from using absolute superlatives, I will say that Red Ginger left me speechless.

Luckily, I had a pen.

Red Ginger Dining Room-1
The wow factor begins from the moment you catch sight of the entryway. The entire restaurant literally glows, impressing with a striking vibrance and yet still feeling softly, gently radiant. The golden walls, the deep red furnishings, and somehow even the ebony accents seem to be lit from within. When you walk into Red Ginger, you think you’ve entered one of the most renowned Asian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The décor is that distinctive and arresting.

Red Ginger Dining Room-2

The impeccable attention to detail apparent in the restaurant’s design was amazing, and unfortunately photos simply can’t do it justice. I tried to capture the beauty of the wall decor beside our table, but this only gives you an inkling of how uniquely eye-catching it was.

Red Ginger Wall


My husband perused the bamboo-bedecked menu while I documented the lovely place settings.

Red Ginger Menu:Setting

We selected our own chopsticks from a colorful Vietnamese assortment made of everything from steel to ivory.


Normally I would devote some time to the fine selection of wines available to complement the evening meal, but at Red Ginger I could hardly be bothered. Okay, yes, I managed to order a lovely glass of wine – a girl has to have standards – but for this meal the wine was practically an afterthought, as they had me at “amuse bouche.” A miniature tureen of edamame beans with sea salt appeared to grace the red scrollwork on our exquisite chargers, and we never looked back.

However, I will confess that when the first dish arrived, I was momentarily afraid to take a bite. It was becoming increasingly apparent that we were being served works of art meant to be on display rather than edible fare. As soon as I lifted the fork to my mouth, the ever-adolescent Ashton Kutcher would leap from behind the giant Buddha head, laughing uproariously at his practical joke and screaming, “You got punk’d! Don’t eat the artwork, dude!”

As you may have already guessed, this did not come to pass. Each course was as deliciously edible as the china was stunning.

A word on china. When I picture china, I think of dainty white plates with exquisite borders delicately hand-painted around the rim.  Well, this ain’t your grandmother’s china.  There is a theme in Red Ginger – striking, bold, modern – and it holds true from floor to ceiling:  the wall coverings, the chairs, the chandeliers, the works of art (really EVERYTHING is a work of art), and yes, the china. With all of the distinctive shapes, colors and textures, you could sit and stare at the plates for hours, if the food sitting upon them wasn’t so tantalizing.

Tuna Tataki
Oh yeah, the food. Lest you think Red Ginger is all beauty and no brains, let me assure you, the food is brilliant.

In the foreword of Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises, Jacques Pepin writes: “Although the food [in Red Ginger] is pan-Asian, this is not a ‘fusion’ restaurant. Rather, the culinary team did hands-on research throughout Asia and worked with chefs all over the world to find recipes and techniques that represent the best of Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese cooking – and spent months mastering their preparation. The presentation is refined in a way that is exciting and modern, but the dishes themselves, like all of our food, is firmly grounded in authentic recipes, traditions, and ingredients.”

Red Ginger Rolls
The hard work of the culinary team certainly paid off. Hallmarks of Asian cuisine are represented in fine fashion – spring rolls in crisp wontons or delicate rice paper, sashimi so fresh that any condiment was optional, a perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavor profiles. And speaking of flavors, Red Ginger’s are exactly what one finds in any successful restaurant – rich and varied, yet unified. Each dish brought something new to the table (apologies for the bad pun), but each bite was distinctly Asian, and more importantly, I soon realized each bite was distinctly Red Ginger.

Beef Carpaccio with roasted peanuts, coriander, shallots and chili oil

Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai soup made with lemongrass, coconut milk and chicken

An important note:  That most essential component of Asian cuisine – spiciness – was perfectly executed. No matter how spicy you prefer it, even if you want your taste buds seared, good spicy food still has flavor. Even the hottest chili sauce should ultimately complement the dish in which it is featured, and the food in Red Ginger achieves this delicate balance.

Lobster Salad
Avocado Lobster Salad with tuna and hamachi on crispy lotus with den miso and shiso vinegar

You may be startled to discover that we are just now arriving at the entrée. Yes, as is our sorrowfully indulgent habit, my husband and I tend to over order when dining with Oceania Cruises because there are simply too many tempting options. But this is another beautiful thing about Red Ginger: Each dish was so delicate, so exquisite, so perfectly envisioned, that we enjoyed every bite of our entrées and even dessert despite the number of courses in which we indulged.  And we were still able to rise from our seats, hustle to Horizons and dance the night away afterward. I don’t know what more a couple could ask of a restaurant.

Miso Glazed Sea Bass AngleBut I digress.  As impressed as we had been up to now, the excitement was palpable as we awaited our entrées. And we were not disappointed. My husband ordered the Miso Glazed Sea Bass, which had already practically become a signature dish of Red Ginger. It was a huge hit. Everyone was doing it, and not just because of the cool factor of the mini clothespin grasping the hoba leaf, but because of how the den miso marinate and perfect preparation brought out the rich flavor of the filet.

Sang Har Mein
I ordered the Sang Har Mien. I am not a connoisseur of Sang Har Mien, and I do not have many experiences with this dish to compare to. Frankly, I wasn’t completely sure what Sang Har Mien was and only ordered it because it sounded delicious, and I was convinced by that point in the meal that I couldn’t go wrong.  I was right.

Whatever the standard may be, Red Ginger’s Sang Har Mien surely meets and exceeds it. The noodles were perfectly crunchy until it was time for them to soften, and then they melted in my mouth. The seafood and vegetables were not only my favorites – jumbo tiger prawns, scallops, squid, carrots, broccoli, shitake mushrooms – but were tender and flavorful. And the saucy broth was absolutely divine.

Red Ginger Tea
It is wrong of me not to have mentioned the tea until now, but my husband and I are not usually tea drinkers, and we did not realize what we were missing until we ventured out at the end of the meal.  There is both a special menu and a server dedicated to tea service in Red Ginger, and once you taste the teas, you will understand why they merit such attention. Just like everything else at Red Ginger, the presentation is flawless and the flavors delectable.

Speaking of service, I’ve hardly mentioned it, but as was the case with the wine, I was distracted by the artistry of the food. Suffice it to say, the service was everything I’ve come to expect from Oceania Cruises – personally attentive, highly knowledgeable, and perfectly paced.

Red Ginger Sorbet
Our server recommended the sorbet assortment for dessert, so even though we’d already selected our desserts, we trusted that this recommendation should not go unheeded.  We were correct. This grand finale was beautifully presented, immensely refreshing, and the ideal conclusion to a spectacular dining experience.

Oceania Cruises is currently featuring a poll on Facebook about onboard restaurants. Vote for your own personal favorite at http://www.facebook.com/OceaniaCruises?ref=sgm.








Privee Setting

We’ve talked quite a bit about Privée, the new dining venue onboard Marina that can be reserved for a private dinner for up to eight guests. We like to refer to the experience in Privée as “The Ultimate Chef’s Table,” for the menu is a seven-course degustation custom designed by the Executive Chef.

But most of you have not yet seen the masterpieces our chefs have created for guests in this most opulent of venues. Mr. Don Horner, one of our guests who recently enjoyed an evening in Privée, was kind enough to share some photos of the delectable food that was featured.

Privee Menu

Below is the Perlita Caviar d’Aquitaine plated on Mother of Pearl.

Privee Caviar

The Canaroli Rice with Langoustine Tartare.

Privee Rice

Brittany Blue Lobster.

Privee Lobster

Roasted Vacherin Mont d’Or Cheese

Privee Cheese

Giffard Maraschino Sabaglione with Berries

Privee Berries

And finally, a special request for the chocolate lovers.

Privee Chocolate

Mr. Horner said he was so enthused by the food, he forgot to take a photo of the Kobe beef. After witnessing this exquisite meal, I can certainly understand why. Thank you so much to Mr. Horner for sharing his photos. I hope all of Oceania Cruises’ loyal guests have the opportunity during their travels onboard Marina to enjoy an exceptional evening of private dining with friends in Privée.