Oceania Cruises was founded in 2003 by a small group of cruise industry veterans. Best-in-class cuisine, destination-oriented itineraries and outstanding value define Oceania Cruises’ five-star experience. Its mid-sized ships – including Oceania Marina – have space for just 1250 guests and some 800 staff, making the experience intimate without being over-the-top formal. Oceania may offer the “finest cuisine at sea”, but there are no black-tie expectations in any restaurants – rather, a country club-casual dress code is preferred.
Oceania’s senior executive chef Alban Gjoka grew up in Northern Italy and as a child would watch his grandmother cook.
“There would be 30 or 40 people for Sunday lunch and I would sit and watch her make pasta from scratch,” he says.
A love of cooking was certainly handed down to Gjoka, although his meals are now prepared on a much larger scale. “We have 147 cooks on board, and my role now is very much involved in the logistics and procurement, also making sure each dish that leaves the kitchen is perfect. While in Europe, most of our fresh produce comes from the Amsterdam markets with the beef being flown in from the States.”
An emphasis on food continues at Marina’s Bon Appetit Culinary Centre, the only hands-on cooking school at sea. It’s one of the most upmarket and well-prepped kitchens you’ll ever see. Oceania also offers side tours visiting local markets and wineries as well, making every foodie’s holiday dreams come true.
Experience all this and more by joining MiNDFOOD editor-in-chief Michael McHugh and Oceania Cruises on the inaugural MiNDFOOD Mediterranean Food & Wine Cruise, from October 3-14, 2015. Read on for the full itinerary.
Port one – Venice
A culinary tour including demonstrations and lunch with wine.
After an overnight stay in Venice, we will board the beautiful Oceania Marina for a 10-night cruise through the Mediterranean. While in Venice, guests of the MiNDFOOD cruise experience will enjoy a special Culinary Tour. With the ship’s chef on hand, we’ll visit the centuries-old Rialto Market (arriving by water taxi) before watching cooking demonstrations.
A sumptuous seafood lunch will then be served with wine. No meal is complete without dessert and a sweet treat awaits MiNDFOOD guests at a nearby chocolate shop. Venice has long been a centre of chocolate production, and as part of this cruise experience you’ll not
only get to taste local wares,
but also witness a chocolate-making demonstration.
Wander Venice’s atmospheric laneways and cobbled bridges at your leisure; admire the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica; and shop for Murano glass and colourful masks before boarding Marina and settling in to your cabin.
Port two: Dubrovnik
A traditional Croatian dinner, including wines.
Enjoy a stroll through this walled medieval city, visiting the Franciscan monastery
and exploring the Rector’s Palace and cathedral. Browse shops lined with hand-woven fabrics, lace, peasant blouses and skirts, carved wood and other trinkets.
Or, explore the countryside with a visit to Cavtat, an enchanting seaside resort that began life as a Greek, and then Roman, colony.
Tonight’s MiNDFOOD exclusive will be a traditional Croatian meal: grilled meat dishes, wonderful cheeses, fresh bread, olives and wine at a local restaurant.
Port three: Kotor
This beautiful walled medieval city in Montenegro is known for its twisting, pink-paved streets, bustling markets and jaw-dropping architecture with Byzantine and Venetian influences.
Stroll through the old town with its backdrop of impressive city walls, and tour the imposing Saint Tryphon Cathedral, consecrated in 1166.
You’ll have time to lose yourself in the hole-in-the-wall shops, where souvenirs include lace, weavings, woodcarvings, and artworks. Hungry? You’ll refuel on smoked ham and lamb cooked in milk – a local delicacy – as well as squid, mussels, cheeses and local wine.
Port four: Igoumenitsa
Our only stop in Greece will see us alighting in this coastal town, the ancient city of Igoumenitsa once encircled by 2400 metres of walls. We’ll enjoy a stroll around the old town and up to a hilltop tower thought to have been a religious sanctuary, where excavations have revealed a theatre that seats 2500 people.
No visit to Greece would be complete without a relaxed waterside lunch in the sun – grilled octopus, olives, saganaki and a glass of white wine are on the menu. Perfect.
Port five: Taormina
A tour of Mount Etna and the San Michele Estate vineyards. MiNDFOOD cruise guests will depart from the pier at Taormina on a scenic drive to Mount Etna, which, at more than 3000 metres high, is the highest of Italy’s mountains south of the Alps. It is also the highest active volcano in Europe, and much of the land surrounding it is covered with solidified lava.
We will then travel in an air-conditioned minibus to San Michele Estate, located on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna. During our visit to these vineyards, we’ll gain great insight into how Mount Etna’s soil, rich in potassium and mineral salts, makes this region perfect for wine production.
We will, of course, have time to sample the varietals produced in the vineyard, before enjoying a typical Sicilian lunch accompanied by local wines before heading back to Giardini Naxos.
After a brief tour of the town, with an obligatory stop to pick up embroidery and ceramics, we’ll re-join the ship and head to Sorrento.
Port six: Sorrento & Capri
Beautiful Capri, with its stunning panoramas, villages, piazzas and the Villa San Michele, makes a nice diversion. Visit the ruins at Pompeii, take a cooking lesson in Sorrento or travel to the frenetic city of Naples and learn to make pizzas as the Neapolitans do.
Capri is also the ideal place to browse boutiques for designer clothes, filigree and mosaic jewellery and cameos, ceramics and artwork.
Port seven: Rome
Oceania Marina moves on to Rome, where we will revel in the city’s magnificent monuments, from the ancient Roman Forum and Colosseum to the splendid St. Peter’s Basilica with Michelangelo’s Pietà, and his breathtaking frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
Or, enjoy a drive through the lush farmlands of the Roman countryside to lovely medieval Castel Gandolfo. Enjoy a light cafe meal in a lively piazza and savour the ambience before browsing designer boutiques for Italian leather and couture, gorgeous jewellery and antiques.
Port eight: Florence, Pisa & Tuscany
We will spend a glorious day amid the architecture of the Renaissance city of Florence. We will see the “Duomo” with Brunelleschi’s dome, the famous baptistery, Michelangelo’s David, the Vecchio bridge over river Arno and the astonishing Uffizi Gallery.
MiNDFOOD guests will take in Pisa’s superb Campo dei Miracoli and its beautiful cathedral and famed campanile (leaning tower). Or, enjoy the Tuscan countryside, Siena and San Gimignano.
Along the way we’ll find stores crammed with leather goods, lingerie, gold jewellery, Florentine mosaics, lace, marbled paper items, antiques and fine art. And then there’s the food – prosciutto, pecorino cheese, breads, cakes and salamis …
Port nine: Monte Carlo
Arriving at our last port, Monte Carlo, we’ll drive along the famous Grande Corniche with its stunning views of Monaco and the Old City, then stroll through this marvellous quarter and its pink Prince’s Palace – don’t forget the casino.
There’s time to explore the old villages along the Côte d’Azur, from Nice to medieval Eze or Cannes, Grasse and lovely Saint-Paul-de-Vence – each one a jewel to be savoured.
A beach hub, it’s small wonder that Monte Carlo is known for its seafood. Enjoy delectable bouillabaisse or grilled fish accompanied by delicious wine.
Join MiNDFOOD editor-in-chief Michael McHugh and Oceania Cruises on the inaugural MiNDFOOD Mediterranean Food & Wine Cruise.
The 11-night cruise from October 3-14, 2015, takes you through some of the most stunning destinations in the Mediterranean, beginning in Venice and ending in Monte Carlo. Rates start from $4995 per person, twin share, and include a host of benefits:
• One night pre-cruise deluxe hotel stay in Venice with private airport and ship transfers.
• A 10-night upper-premium cruise from Venice to Monte Carlo aboard Oceania Marina.
• A welcome bottle of wine in your stateroom on embarkation.
• An exclusive welcome aboard and farewell cocktail reception.
• A 90-minute cooking class in the world’s only culinary centre at sea.
• An evening of private dining in La Reserve including cuisine, champagne and fine wines.
• A Culinary Discovery Shore Tour in Venice.
• Optional shore tour experiences in other ports of call.
For airfares and more details about the MiNDFOOD cruise, contact Janette at Cruiseabout Castlecrag, +61 2 9958 3522, [email protected].