Today, I am traveling by train from Paris to Monte Carlo, where at around 4 p.m. I’ll step off the rails and onto Oceania Cruises’ new Riviera. I’m part of a media/travel seller group sailing on Riviera and attending the christening ceremony, which takes place this coming Friday in Barcelona.
Godmother Cat Cora, a master chef, restaurateur, humanitarian, author, and co-host of Bravo’s new “Around the World in 80 Plates,” will smash a bottle of bubbly against the hull. I had the pleasure of meeting Cat on Celebrity Solstice a couple of years ago. She’s a fine choice for godmother of Riviera.
Avid Cruiser contributor Andreas Lundgren writes that Oceania is putting an intense focus on culinary aspects, just as it did on Oceania Marina, reviewed here. His story follows. Meantime, I hope you’ll return to this space to share the excitement about Oceania’s newest vessel.
Oceania’s new Riviera will surely please the palates of cruising epicureans.
Ten years after its formation, Oceania Cruises goes from strength to strength. In mid-May, the line will take delivery of the second of two purpose-built ships: the Riviera. The ship is number four in the fleet of a line that has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade.
Oceania’s founders Frank Del Rio and Joe Watters started out with an idea and one ship: the Regatta, originally built for another cruise line (now defunct Renaissance Cruises).
Ten years later, three additional ships have enabled Oceania to move forward in a way that perhaps few expected in 2002, when the line was formed. And although not completely unchanged over the years, it seems that the idea of the founders was right.
Today Oceania Cruises is a well-established brand that has managed to find a unique place in the cruise market. In fact, the company says it is “the world’s only upper premium cruise line” – an argument that positions Oceania one notch above premium brands such as Celebrity and Holland America Line and just under luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises (which, just like Oceania, is owned by the US-based firm Prestige Cruise Holdings).
Cuisine, destinations and service are three of the strengths that Oceania’s success has been built on. In fact, when the Marina was introduced some jokingly referred to the ship as “a floating galley.”
Similarly, a lot of focus on board the Riviera is on food and culinary experiences. As an example, with the launch of the ship, Oceania’s culinary enrichment program has been expanded to more than 25 ports worldwide. Uniquely designed for each port, the new tours provide guests with the opportunity to explore local food markets in small groups side with an expert chef.
What’s more, the “Cuisines of the World” programming is now available across the fleet. With each new port, the Grand Dining Room and the Terrace Café feature the culinary highlights and local signature regional dishes.
“It was ground-breaking when Oceania Cruises introduced the first hands-on culinary school at sea with the launch of Marina,” says Kunal S. Kamlani, the line’s president. “Now with the introduction of sister-ship Riviera we are taking culinary enrichment to a whole new level to solidify our reputation as the cruise line for epicureans.”
As solid proof of that ambition, Riviera features no fewer than 10 dining venues – six of which are gourmet restaurants, plus the Bon Appétit Culinary Center for hands-on learning and La Reserve – a professional facility for wine-tastings and wine-pairing dinners.
It seems befitting that the godmother at the ship’s naming ceremony in Barcelona earlier in May is Cat Cora – one of the most well-known chefs in the U.S.
Following her May 16 maiden voyage, Riviera will spend the summer and autumn cruising the Mediterranean and then cross the Atlantic to operate a series of winter Panama Canal and Caribbean cruises.