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A Local’s Look at Greece, Part 2
 

By Captain Dimitrios Flokos

As many of you know from my last post or from meeting me on board, I was born in Volos and have called Athens home for a long time. In my last post, I shared some suggestions on how to enjoy the country as the locals do and really soak up the culture. This time, it’s all about one of my favorite topics – Greek food. Read on for my favorite dishes, drinks and local restaurants.

 

EAT LIKE A GREEK
One of my all-time favorite dishes is called Gemista, which is a dish of vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini and green peppers stuffed with rice – this is really traditional, along with moussaka, a delicious layered eggplant and meat dish. Of course, one of Greece’s most famed dishes is the Greek salad, and this you will find on every family’s table in Greece and in every restaurant. We really do love it. This simple dish shines with tomatoes, feta, olives and cucumber, usually a sprinkle of oregano and is always drizzled with some local extra virgin olive oil. I am also a big fan of dolmades, stuffed grape leaves or cabbage leaves – depending on the season.

 

TRADITIONAL LIBATIONS
Of course, no Greek dish is complete without a delicious glass of wine. If you are in the north, I suggest you try a nice red wine from Naoussa or Nemea and if you are in the south, of course you should go for a fresh white, like Assyrtiko on Santorini – one of the best in the country. Also keep an eye out for Tsipouradikos, especially in Volos and Crete. These traditional spots are known for tsipouro, which is a traditional pomace brandy typical in rural and island villages. In these locals’ spots, with each ouzo or tsipouro you order, the waiter will bring out a small meze for the table to share. It’s the perfect way to sample the local cuisine and culture – but beware, tsipouro is potent!

AN UNFORGETTABLE EVENING
If you are looking for an evening you’ll never forget in Athens, make reservations at Dionysos. This modern Greek restaurant is an Athens institution and has become known around the world for both its iconic views of the Acropolis and its delicious Greek cuisine. About 12 years ago, the founder of Oceania Cruises, Frank Del Rio, and his wife, Marcia, came to Athens and this is where we dined with evening views of the Acropolis. Try the lamb with the potatoes, the moussaka or the catch of the day. Pair it with a good glass of Greek wine and you can’t go wrong. This is simply one of the most exquisite ways to close your visit in beautiful Athens, the world’s ancient capital, and end your journey on a high note.

I hope you’ll include Greece in your spring and summer travel adventures this year!

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A Local’s Look at Greece, Part 1
 

By Captain Dimitrios Flokos

When you sail to Greece, they say you sail to the land of gods, myths and heroes. And that couldn’t be more true – when you sail into the Aegean Sea and you see the wide open skies and deep blue sea dotted with islands, you can sense the deep heritage and history of many millennia the land carries with it.

I joined Oceania Cruises at the very beginning in 2003 and have had the opportunity to sail to many gorgeous and remarkable places during my career and with my wife, Denise. After all of these travels, I have to tell you that there is no land as enchanted as Greece. What sets Greece apart are, yes, the masterpieces from ancient times that are on everyone’s travel lists, but also the culture, the people and the cuisine. Greeks practically invented hospitality. There is something about the ambiance that you will notice, the way Greeks interact with each other, the way they welcome you, that is particular to the country.

Born in Volos and a long-time Athens local, I have some suggestions on how to enjoy the country as the Greeks do and make the best of your time.

 

AN OLD FAVORITE
One of the places Denise and I always go to shortly after arriving back in Greece is a small restaurant in the center of Athens. It’s just off Plaza Kolonakiou in the exclusive neighborhood of Kolonaki, which has many restaurants and cafés that are perfect for taking in the afternoon. One of my favorite restaurants that I have been going to for years and years is called Tops. It’s a place we gather with friends at and has delicious Greek food and the best service. They are truly friendly here – so sit back, relax, and enjoy a slice of Greek culture.

 

ATHENIAN DAYS
I grew up in the center, so for me, it is a must to see Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of Athens which sits on a hillside in the shadow of the Acropolis – it has a village feel to it and is filled with great restaurants and shops. Monastiraki is another top choice – this lively area is known for iconic landmarks like Hadrian’s Gate, along with a sprawling market. Taking a stroll through the National Gardens is a nice treat – often you might come across an outdoor concert. From here you can visit Syntagma Square where you can watch the changing of the guards. Just before dusk, I recommend you visit the rooftop of the Grand Bretagna for a cocktail to watch the sun set over the Acropolis.

Stay tuned for my top culinary recommendations, favorite restaurants and more next week.

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Made in Spain: A Chef’s Look at Iberian Ingredients On Board

By Fleet Corporate Executive Chef Franck Garanger

 

High-quality ingredients travel from market to galley to inspire the big flavors of our traditional small bites and regional Spanish dishes on board. Having spent many years in Valencia now, I’ve cooked and learned and lived the culinary ways of Spain. I love this country for so many reasons but one of them is that it has such a high quality of food because of the passion and respect Spanish people have for food. You see it everywhere you go – in the markets, in the restaurants, and in the neighborhood tavernas and tapas bars too. They have a great knowledge of what exactly is good food and when to eat it.

The variety of Spanish ingredients is immense due to the varied climate, topography and geography of each region. For example, Galicia in the northwest has incredible fish and seafood and is one of the best sources of beef in all of Europe. País Vasco, or Basque Country, is recognized for its incredible quality of tapas, called pintxos here. Valencia is celebrated for its rice fields and paella, while Andalucia is known for its use of spices and vegetables due to its geographical proximity to Africa. Traveling around Spain, you really see and taste the distinctness of the regions in their dishes and wines.

After cooking many, many pans of paella, tortilla española and pots of gazpacho, I feel…almost Spanish – almost. Many of the most beloved Spanish foods are really quite simple and rely heavily on drawing out the natural flavors of fresh, classic ingredients. Here are some of the Spanish ingredients I love most that we use on board to capture the flavors of this vibrant country.

Castilla-La Mancha Saffron
Prized as the most expensive and elusive spice, our saffron is cultivated in Spain’s heartland, noted for its ideal climate, and harvested by hand. On board, we use saffron for paella of course, but also risotto, bouillabaisse and several sauces for fishes.

 

Marinated Olives
When you’re in Spain, it’s likely some olives will appear with your drinks. A staple of Spanish pantries everywhere, olives pair with everything. My favorites that we serve on board are the large green manzanilla variety and arbequinia.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
Recognized as the finest in the world, this exceptional ham is cured for up to four years and comes from an ancient breed of acorn-fed pig found only on the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll see it in markets and grocery stores across Spain and aboard our ships – it’s a culinary tradition Spaniards are very proud of, and once you taste it, you’ll understand why.

 

Piquillo Peppers
Grown in Northern Spain near Lodosa, these small red peppers are perfect for roasting, which gives them a rich, smoky-sweet flavor. These are traditionally stuffed with potatoes and bacalao (cod) or béchamel. We also blend them in savory sauces.

Manchego
The pronounced nutty flavors of this Castilla-La Mancha cheese is made exclusively fromraw or pasteurized Manchega breed sheep’s milk and has been produced in this region for thousands of years. Enjoy it by itself or for one of the most classic pairings, try it with dulce de membrillo, a traditional quince paste, and Marcona almonds.

 

Pulpo
Everyone from school children to Spanish grandmas love octopus, especially pulpo a la gallega, a signature Galician dish. This is a soft-cooked large octopus and gets its unique flavors from three simple ingredients: paprika, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. On board, we serve pulpo a la gallega during our Spanish buffet at Terrace Café.

Next time you are on board, look for featured Spanish dishes on select menus at Terrace Café and The Grand Dining Room. Buen provecho!

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Top 5 Romantic Islands Around the World

Seeking a serene escape for you and your significant other? From secluded beaches and famed lagoons to dramatic cliffs, epic sunsets and lush rainforests, these islands span the four corners of the globe and make it hard not to swoon. For your next romantic getaway, here’s what our Destination Specialists say are your best bets.

1. St. Lucia

St. Lucia

 

What’s not to love about settling into the relaxing rhythm of St. Lucia amidst the stunning backdrop of the UNESCO-protected Pitons? This lush island is favored by honeymooners and those looking to escape and reconnect. Stroll the French colonial gem of Soufrière hand-in-hand, explore the majestic old-growth rainforest or perhaps spice things up and learn the island secrets of traditional St. Lucian dishes on one of our popular Culinary Discovery Tours™.

Romantic Shore Excursion Pick: Island Spices & Cooking Tour

2. Santorini

Is there any place in the world that can compete with the vistas of Santorini? Dramatic cliffs, ancient ruins, picturesque villages – all with your significant other by your side. You really can’t go wrong with adventures in this Greek paradise, but one involving Santorini wine tops our list.

Romantic Shore Excursion Pick: Food & Wine Trails: Santorini’s Boutari Winery, Oia & Fira Visits

3. The Seychelles

The Seychelles

 

A naturalist’s paradise, the Seychelles are one of those locations on the planet that truly are a world away. La Digue offers gorgeous and romantic beaches, while mountainous Mahé offers excellent hiking and beautiful natural parks as well tropical beaches.

Romantic Shore Excursion Pick: these secluded islands need no advance planning – arrive, relax and savor every moment of the surreal beauty.

4. Boracay

Declared “World’s Best Island” by Travel+Leisure, Boracay Island is dreamy hidden paradise free from crowds. White Beach is perfect for lazing in the sun by day and enjoying leisurely sunset strolls by evening. The surrounding waters are ideal for snorkeling and often lead you to even more secluded and tranquil stretches of beach that you can enjoy all to yourself.

Romantic Shore Excursion Pick: Island Beach & Snorkeling

5. Bora Bora

Bora Bora

 

From the island’s fabled lagoon to off-the-beaten-path villages and beaches, Bora Bora offers endless corners of paradise to uncover together. There are plenty of options for adventures both on land and by sea – off-road safaris, island tours, snorkeling, lagoon cruises and more. Why not cap your Bora Bora island experience off by indulging in a sumptuous dinner at St. Regis on our new exclusive Culinary Discovery Tour?

Romantic Shore Excursion Pick: Gourmet Dinner at St. Regis Bora Bora

A romantic island cruise vacation is the perfect chance to rekindle and re-connect – explore more options now.

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A Local’s Guide to Sevilla

From the tapas bar everyone is buzzing about to the top choice for a true south-of-Spain flamenco experience, the best way to enjoy the charismatic capital of Andalusia is to learn the secret spots where Sevillanos flock to. These insider tips from our Destination Specialists will immerse you in the local culture and give you a taste of the true soul of Spain.

SHOP

WABI SABI SHOP & GALLERY
Calle Francos, 9

 

From hand-painted ceramics with animal motifs to lavishly soft leather bags, María López has expertly curated her narrow space near Plaza de San Francisco to offer a contemporary-minded shop that features local artists. Wabi Sabi, which in Japanese means “the beauty of the imperfect,” is an eccentric boutique with a fascinating mix of art and interior design.

VISIT

LOS GALLOS TABLAO FLAMENCO
Plaza de Santa Cruz, 11

 

The award-winning and internationally recognized Los Gallos Tablao Flamenco has been putting
on outstanding shows since 1966. The Spanish art of flamenco, which combines guitar playing, song and
dance, is also filled with exceptional pageantry, flair and passion. For a gold-standard flamenco show, this Seville institution tops the list of locals’ favorites and offers a night to remember.

EAT

LA AZOTEA
Calle Zaragoza, 5

 

This modest restaurant creates seasonal dishes that turn old favorites into exquisite tapas. If you’re looking for a casual spot that focuses on delicious local cuisine, La Azotea offers a frequently changing menu and a well-curated regional wine list, plus four locations. You can also visit this Sevillano hot spot on Calle Jesús del Gran Poder, Calle Conde Barajas and Calle Mateos Gago.

Viva España! We hope to see you in Spain this spring!