Cruise vacations no longer are just about lounging poolside and enjoying ocean views. In recent years, cuisine has taken center stage on many cruise lines that offer celebrity chef-inspired menus and dining venues, and shoreside excursions that immerse passengers in local foods and customs.
Oceania Cruises, an upper premium line, has been a leader in culinary vacations at sea for several years. French Master Chef Jacques Pépin is executive culinary director for the line’s six ships, and Oceania is well known for its culinary tours while in port. This week the cruise line unveiled a collection of multi-day pre-, post- and mid-cruise land tours called Culinary Creations Land Tours.
Available starting in spring 2016, the new tours will be offered in Rome, Barcelona, Provence (Monte Carlo), Tuscany (Rome/Civitavecchia), Greece (Athens), London and Argentina (Buenos Aires) during select sailings aboard Nautica, Marina, Riviera and the newest ship in the Oceania Cruises fleet, Sirena.
The tours are geared to provide guests with epicurean interests an opportunity to interact with local culinary experts by exploring local food markets, cooking schools, restaurants and attractions. They range from two to three nights and are priced from $1,399 per person, on top of the cruise fare, which varies by destination and departure date.
“This is a natural extension for the Oceania Cruises brand, and leverages two of our greatest strengths: developing rich shore experiences that bring the incredible destinations we visit to life, and creating the most engaging culinary enrichment programs at sea,” says Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer of Oceania Cruises. “As destination experts we recognize that many cultures around the world are often defined by their culinary traditions, and the new Culinary Creations Land Tours we designed are perfect for guests seeking a more in-depth exploration of those traditions.”
Here’s a sampling of what to expect on Oceania’s new tours:
Provence: Guests will discover the culinary treasures of Provence as they travel into the countryside for a three-night stay at the Château de Berne. Each guest will help prepare a traditional Provençal lunch at the château using fresh, seasonal and local ingredients from the chef’s vegetable and herb gardens. After sampling wine and local delicacies between tours of traditional villages, guests will discover the historic charms of Le Thoronet and Cotignac, and learn about local olive oil production and regional specialties in Moulin de Pascaline. In addition, guests will gain insight into the distinct wines of Provence during a tasting and tour of a private wine cellar.
Tuscany: Throughout a three-night stay in Tuscany, guests will participate in a hands-on cooking class at Villa Pandolfini, an estate dating back to the 1200s. On a half-day walking tour of Florence, guests will visit legendary attractions such as Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia and Ponte Vecchio. During an independent visit to the Square of Miracles in Pisa, guests can savor the architectural masterpieces of the city’s Golden Age, including the iconic Leaning Tower, the Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
Greece: During a two-night stay in Athens guests will visit an open-air Greek market and sample locally made cheese and olives. Following a visit to the market, guests will learn how to prepare traditional Greek dishes alongside a top Greek chef and attend wine and ouzo tastings. With an entrance ticket to the Acropolis included, guests can embark on a self-guided tour before enjoying a guided visit to the new Acropolis Museum. In addition, guests will be treated to a food and wine pairing lunch at revered Varoulko, home to Greece’s top-awarded Michelin star chef.
London: During a three-night stay in London, guests will explore English cuisine through historical food markets, gourmet shops, traditional lunches and a hands-on cooking class. While at Borough Market, guests will sample cheeses, fruit, pies, beers and other local treats. They also will take part in a Master Class at Brigade Cook School, where they will prepare a three-course lunch featuring seasonal and classic British dishes. In addition, guests will sample delights from one of the oldest wine and spirits shops in St. James.
In addition to new Culinary Creation tours for the 2016 season, Oceania Cruises recently introduced OLife Advantage, a program offering complimentary amenities for guests who book their 2016 voyage early. The program provides booking incentives such as free shore excursions, unlimited internet and pre-paid gratuities to guests who book a veranda stateroom category or above before Sept. 30, 2015.