Anticipation of Antiquity – sailing through history aboard an Oceania cruise
Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia is the largest square facing the sea in Italy. The vast expanse in front of the 19th century Palazzo del Municipio in Trieste offers an elevated view of the Gulf of Venice in the blue of the Adriatic Sea and, with a glass of red wine, one can imagine the future that awaits more than 10 days aboard the Oceania cruise ship awaits them below. And then go to sleep and dream about it.
“Trieste is a beautiful city with a lot to offer from a historical point of view. Walk and explore,” advised Andrea Grisdale, founder of IC Bellagio, Italy’s first bespoke travel advisor.
In the morning I had to remind myself, in class, to eat only a careful “colazione” at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in the center of Trieste – where it would have been easy, at the Novecentro restaurant, to overeat at their hearty breakfast -Italian buffet lunch of meats, cheeses, eggs, ricotta pancakes, brioches, thick hot chocolate and more. But I was less than an hour from boarding the bus for the Riviera – and it would be silly to take a full stomach aboard an Oceania cruise ship.
I sipped a cappuccino and listened to the other diners who were already getting to know each other and chatting since almost everyone in the restaurant was American and also bound for 10 days aboard a 10 year old but freshly renovated 784ft vessel. With a maximum capacity of just 1,238 guests in the Ralph Lauren Home-designed suites aboard the luxury liner, they will likely dine together again at some point. Or sharing great shore excursions together, they will remember in their own way: the antiquities of Croatia, Montenegro, the Greek islands, Athens, Ephesus and Istanbul in Turkey awaited them.
This type of cruise is as much of an adventure as most adults can have, so yeah, everyone was excited. Therefore, I pushed the cappuccino away and poured myself a prosecco – it was like Christmas – a morning to celebrate!
The Prosecco is produced in the countryside near Venice, and it was sweet to sip, but that didn’t foreshadow a shore excursion – but an onboard option I was looking forward to: the Dom Pérignon experience! It’s a culinary experience at the ship’s gourmet La Reserve restaurant that pairs each of the six dishes with different vintages of the famous champagne. Lobster, Wagyu beef and caviar with the beloved bubbly, thanks to a partnership between Oceania Cruises and Moet & Chandon and Wine Spectator magazine.
If that’s not enough, a traditional seven-course dinner with La Cuisine Bourgeoise wine pairing designed by renowned French chef Jacques Pepin, the culinary celebrity who is Oceania’s Executive Culinary Director.
“To produce extraordinary dishes, you need love,” said Pépin. “One cannot cook indifferently.”
Pépin’s culinary traditions date back to the mid-19ecentury in France, and this particular Oceania cruise offered many cultural culinary experiences ashore in various countries. In Split, Croatia, we would taste Dalmatian bites in a setting of Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque architecture. Smoked ham and cheeses near the 12th century Saint Tryphon Cathedral in the UNESCO-listed old walled town of Kotor in Montenegro. A stopover in Santorini Greece offered a visit to the Venetsanos winery; snacks in Mykonos would come to an idyllic cove aboard a small boat on the island of Rhenia.
The guests from Oceania, in small groups, were able to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon in the historic city of Athens. Landing in Ephesus meant seeing the final resting place of the Virgin Mary; Istanbul meant multi-religious historic experiences of ancient Constantinople in the inspiring Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as a taste and foothold in Asia and Europe before the bustling Grand Bazaar of 4,000 shops.
“Istanbul is a center of world history. Napoleon said: “If the world had a capital, it would be Constantinople,” said Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, which frequents Turkey. “You are also in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Saint Paul.”
The shore excursions offered were varied to suit all tastes, pardon the pun. Plus options for physical ability level or incline.
“I’ve been on a number of cruises, but none compare to this level,” said Dennis Bialecki, a retired businessman from Toledo who is a sailor himself.
Miami-based Oceania Cruises offers a wide variety of itineraries across the seven seas each year.
Michel Patrick Shiels
Syndicated talk show host and travel writer
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