Oceania Cruises is well-known for its culinary offerings aboard its fleet, but further enticing foodies to travel with the luxury cruise line are its exceptional cooking classes offered aboard its Riviera and Marina ships as well as full and half-day Culinary Discovery Tours led by its chefs on its entire fleet.
Chef Kathryn Kelly, Oceania’s Director of Culinary Enrichment, designed each of the culinary discovery tours offered by the cruise line. Kelly, who has been with Oceania since 2010, has extensive culinary experience both as a gourmet chef and owner of a restaurant as well as a member of the faculty at the Culinary Institute of America (from which she is also a graduate). Culinary Discovery Tours are offered on Oceania ships with itineraries that stop in such ports as Venice, Monte Carlo, Portofino, Marseille, Oslo, Helsinki, Corfu, Catania, Casablanca, Barcelona, Argostoli, Rhodes, Tangiers, San Juan, and Tortola.
“We try to connect our guests with where we are traveling,” says Kelly. “So we get off the ship and we go to markets, we go to restaurants and we go to food manufacturers—-anything we think might be really special and intimate enough for where they are at and for our cooking school.”
The only hands-on cooking program offered by any cruise ship, Oceania offers several classes from which to choose on its Marina and Riviera ships. The number of classes that are offered is dependent on the length and itinerary of the cruise. Participants in one of the programs explore cuisines and ingredients and learn culinary techniques, which they can later use at home.
The Culinary Arts Kitchens aboard the Marina and Riviera ships easily rival those of professional cooking schools around the world. The equipment is state-of-the-art and in a prime location on an upper deck of the ship with large picture windows that offer spectacular views and natural light.
Each class begins with a cooking demonstration led by the Chef. Students are then assigned to a station where they prepare the same dishes and then dine on their creations that are paired with a glass of wine.
Pursuitist had the opportunity to take a class with Chef Kelly while on board the beautiful Marina. The class, called “Amore: Love of Lemons” featured such recipes as a fennel salad made with preserved lemons, a delicious lemon risotto, scaloppini al limone and a lemon basil gelato and “drunken” limoncello cakes for dessert.
We also learned how to make homemade limoncello (the Italian lemon liqueur) as well as preserved lemons, which were used in several of the recipes. The class was fascinating and the meal we prepared was utterly delicious. Everyone who participates receives a booklet that contains each of the recipes that were taught in the class so they can make them at home.
There are classes on several of the Marina and Riviera itineraries that feature Arabesque, Sicilian, Cuban cuisine, as well as a Fish Master Class, Paella Master Class and courses that focus on such foods as pasta, pizza, tapas, crepes and favorites from the Red Ginger restaurant menu.
Passengers can take their culinary exploration one step further by signing up to participate in a Culinary Discovery Tour which offers the opportunity to experience firsthand the local culture of the destination. Oceania chefs lead tours that might include a visit to a local market, a Michelin-starred restaurant or a winery. The chef will educate the participants on selecting produce, fresh fish and spices used in traditional recipes.
During the Marina’s stop at Roatan in Honduras during mid-February, Pursuitist participated in the Culinary Discovery Tour that included a visit to the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum where we toured tropical fruit orchards and beautiful gardens featuring exotic plants and flowers. One of the highlights of the guided tour was walking through a hydroponic lettuce and herb farm, where we learned how hydroponic farming contributes to water conservation, sustainability and better produce. Here, we saw 70,000 heads of lettuce and herb grown in water. Later, we were taken by boat to a small, private island called Little French Key where a local chef did a cooking demonstration of local specialties, including coconut shrimp and rice and beans with coconut, which were also served for lunch along with a salad made with produce from the hydroponic farm at Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum.
Other Culinary Discovery Tours offered on Oceania’s ships range far and wide. For example, on cruises that stop at the Argostoli port in Greece, passengers can sign up for a Chef Foraging Tour of Cephalonia and Greek Cooking Class. On a cruise that includes a stop at Casablanca, there is a chef-led tour of an olive market and the Central Market in town where participants forage for such ingredients as olives, preserved lemons, rose water and tagine. These ingredients are later used during a 90-minute long Moroccan cooking class in the Culinary Center on the ship.
Passengers on cruises that stop at Monte Carlo have the opportunity to sign up for a Discovery Tour that features a visit to the Nice market and lunch at the famous Chateau Eza with a menu developed by Chef Kelly (with each course explained by the chef including cooking techniques and ingredients used).
As the Culinary Discovery Tours and cooking classes are extremely popular, it is advisable to enroll in them well before boarding the ship. We discovered the programs are often sold out months in advance.
Carrie Coolidge is a Pursuitist contributor based in Manhattan. From 2009 to 2011, Carrie served as Co-Editor of Luxist, the luxury lifestyle website at AOL where she ran the Luxist Awards, a program that honored the very best in fine living. From 1996 to 2009, Carrie was a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, where she covered real estate, personal finance and the insurance industry, among other areas. Carrie is also the author of six books, including "The Business of America is Business". Follow her on Twitter: @carriecoolidge