Your World Your Way: Oceania Cruises sets the new standard for culinary excellence at sea
What a world it was aboard Oceania Cruises flagship stunner, Regatta, as we travelled through the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean for 12 nights over Christmas and New Year’s 2009. Departing on a slightly chilly Wednesday evening, my husband Don and I planted ourselves on the veranda of our cabin for the sunset sail away with champagne and petit fours the cruise line had so kindly bestowed upon us. We started to relax as we watched the bright lights of Miami gradually fade into the distance. And so our holiday adventure had begun!
Oceania is a marvelously unique cruise line that markets itself to the world not only as value luxury, but also as somewhat of a superior entity at sea providing food and beverage excellence. Where else can you truly have your pick of four gourmet dining venues each evening for dinner, all with an open seating policy in a country club casual atmosphere? Under the expert guidance of Master Chef Jacques Pepin, who serves as Oceania’s Executive Culinary Director, talented chefs create some of the finest gastronomic creations, which are available morning, noon, and night and made with all the freshest ingredients. They have certainly designed a recipe for success. Each restaurant has its own special identity and environment, and it’s up to guests to decide where they’re in the mood to dine each night.
The Grand Dining Room is richly appointed with luxury fabrics and dramatic frescoes on the domed ceilings. The tables are topped with white linens accompanied by fine Versace china, Riedel crystal stemware, and Christofle silver place settings. Inventive European cuisine is the focus here, with French influences. A superb effort is made to maintain a healthy respect for the traditional kitchen while at the same time incorporating New Age dishes into the menu. Jacques Pepin’s Signature Dishes, such as Poulet Roti and Steak Frites, are paired effortlessly on the menu with Braised Tofu and Thai Fish, and Seafood Stir-fry entrees. Guests watching their waistlines at sea had the welcome alternative of selecting healthy yet savory courses presented by world-renowned Canyon Ranch.
One of my favorites, Beef Consomme’ with Diablotins (homemade croutons), was an option that, to my glee, brought back childhood memories of dining with my family on many special occasions at The Cloister Hotel on Sea Island, Georgia. Dessert was always magical as we soon discovered all ice creams and sorbets are homemade, with lots of love, right on the ship. Don’t get me started on the eclectic variety of flavors presented each day: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee/banana, tiramisu, cassis, lime, and raspberry… all were simply refreshing and blissful.
Other palate-stirring dinner venues included Toscana, showcasing authentic Tuscan dishes, and the Polo Grill, which reminded me of a classic steak house complete with dark wood furnishings and leather chairs. Tapas on the Terrace offered a Mediterranean-inspired buffet and the opportunity to dine alfresco under the stars, quite an extraordinary treat.
Specialty cocktails are featured on impressive drink menus throughout the ship. Three cocktails-of-the-day are highlighted each day and can include anything from your standard classic mimosa to a tequila sunrise or White Russian. martinis bar on Deck 5 and Horizons on Deck 10 presented Happy Hour “2 for 1” libations from 5-6 p.m. each evening. Going to one or the other became our little ritual for 12 straight nights prior to dinner. A well-attended martini tasting experience was held one afternoon, conducted by Master Mixologist Blazo.
The Canyon Ranch SpaClub did not disappoint and as usual I was game for a facial, massage, and manicure/pedicure. “The Power of Serenity” is touted in their brochures and I concur they hit the nail on the head with that proclamation. Five cozy treatment rooms, hair salon, a fancy pedicure station, and Laura Mercier makeup line come together to give spa mavens of all ages that indulgent experience we crave. And all with an ocean view! I opted for the total transformation facial, figuring I would need some major help as I ate and drank my way through Christmas at sea. Ladies, you know what this can do to your skin. This signature facial came with the usual bells and whistles but included an added boost: oxygen technology. An intense moisturizing serum is infused with this advanced application and the results were positively glowing. I walked back to our cabin following the treatment and my husband asked me who I was and what had I done with his wife?!
We made it back to the ship literally covered from head to toe in red dirt and promptly sent our clothes out for laundering. The Power Snorkeling excursion on Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands, gave us the opportunity to glide seamlessly through the water exploring lovely coral reefs, using our handheld power snorkel units. Our favorite had to be beautiful Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Island where we’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times. New Year’s Day lunch at Rosewood’s Little Dix Bay was enchanting and left us wondering when we could come back. Overall impressions were undoubtedly favorable and I wouldn’t hesitate to cruise with Oceania again in the future, particularly since they have already and continue to raise the bar for culinary excellence at sea. The introduction of their latest ship, Marina, will take place next January and will feature the Bon Appétit culinary center – the first hands-on instructional classes at sea in conjunction with Bon Appétit magazine. Bravo, Oceania!
a typical cruise consists of:
• 684 passengers
• 11 sommeliers & 1 Cellar master on board
• Ongoing training for staff on board
• 350 wine varietals on each sailing
• 1,400 lbs. beef tenderloin
• 1,200 lbs. strip loin
• 2,500 lbs. chicken
• 1,000 lbs. Maine and Florida lobster
• 30 different pastries and breads created daily
• 80-100 liters per day ice cream/sorbet